March 3, 2017
The Gulls (31-14-2-2, 64 pts.) finish up a home-and-home set with the Tucson Roadrunners (22-21-6-0, 50 pts.) tonight at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 PT, 1090-AM) in the ninth meeting between the clubs this season. San Diego finished the month of February with a 10-2 record, outscoring opponents 43-23, setting a club record for the most wins in a calendar month (previous: eight, set three times; Jan. 2017, Mar. 2016, Feb. 2016). The Gulls closed out the month-long schedule with a 5-3 victory on Tuesday over the Roadrunners and improved to 4-0-0 at Tucson Arena this season
“The chemistry in the locker room is unreal,” said rookie center Kalle Kossila, “The discipline within our system and the shifts we play, everyone buys in. It’s a commitment, and everyone comes to the rink every day and we go hard. It’s really positive.”
The Gulls enter tonight with three consecutive victories, wins in 13 of their last 15 contests (13-2-0) and 20 of the last 24 overall (20-3-0-1). San Diego has also earned standings points in 19 of the last 21 games (18-2-0-1) where the club has outscored opponents 75-35, as well as points in 23 of 26 contests since Christmas (20-3-1-2). The Gulls have won eight of the last nine home games and earned standings points in 10 of their last 12 contests at Valley View Casino Center dating back to Dec. 26 (8-2-1-1).
“I feel like we don’t have a doubt in our mind,” said defenseman Shea Theodore when asked if the team believes it can win each night. “If we’re down by one or two goals, we really feel that we can come back and win any game and we believe in our group.”
The Gulls currently have the third-best points percentage (.673) in the Western Conference and fourth-best in the AHL, while the club has allowed the second-fewest goals in the league (126). San Diego’s remaining 19 contests this season will come against Pacific Division opponents where the Gulls have posted a 25-13-1-2 record in the division.
“The consistency in our game is really good right now,” said Theodore. “We’re playing solid, sticking to our game plan and it’s really working out.”
The Gulls and Roadrunners face off for the ninth of 12 meetings this season and the fourth at Valley View Casino Center. San Diego has earned points in seven of eight previous matchups this season (6-1-0-1), including a 2-1-0-1 mark at home. The last home meeting between the clubs on Feb. 18 saw the Roadrunners grab a 5-2 come-from-behind win where the roadrunners scored five unanswered goals. The Gulls previously swept a three-game road series in Tucson from Jan. 25-28, including a club record 8-1 rout on Jan. 25. In the other three meetings in San Diego, the Gulls earned a 5-3 win Oct. 14, a 5-1 win Nov. 30 and fell 5-4 in a shootout loss Dec. 26.
“Our fans have been huge for us,” added Kossila. “Just getting out there you know there’s 10,000 fans behind you. Every time you score a goal it gets really loud and really gets the team going. “We definitely have some of the best fans in the league. They are loud and great and give us a lot of support,” said Theodore, “We’re a good home ice team and we really try to use that to our advantage.”
Antoine Laganiere leads active Gulls skaters in goals (6) and points (10) vs. the Roadrunners while Jaycob Megna (1-6=7) leads the club in assists. In four starts vs. Tucson this season, Dustin Tokarski has posted a 3-0-1 record. In addition, four Gulls are averaging more than a point per game against Tucson this season.
Tucson is led offensively by former Gull Chris Mueller who has scored 11 goals and added 36 assists to his name this season, good for 47 points. In the season series, Mueller has tallied points in seven of the nine games (4G/6A). Rookie right wing Christian Fischer has had a stellar campaign to date, posting 19 goals and 20 assists (39 points) to lead club rookies and ranks first in goals and third among league newcomers in points. Tucson has posted a 2-8-1-0 record in their last 11 games, and finished February with a 1-5-0-0 record on the road.