March 15, 2017
The Gulls (34-15-3-2, 73 pts.) host the Stockton Heat (26-23-4-1, 57 pts.) tonight for the ninth of 10 matchups this season, and the fifth and final home contest between the clubs this season at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m., 1700-AM). The Gulls have been hot at home as of late, winning five consecutive games and 11 of the last 12 games at Valley View Casino Center (11-1-0-0). San Diego also has the second-best win percentage (.676) in the Western Conference and third-best in the AHL, while the club has allowed the second-fewest goals in the league (141).
San Diego fell 3-0 to the San Jose Barracuda in Sunday afternoon, but enter tonight with points in seven of the last eight games (6-1-1), wins in 16 of their last 20 contests (16-3-1) and 23 of the last 29 overall (23-4-1-1).
“We’re just getting back to basics this week,” said Gulls defenseman Nate Guenin. “We’re not looking too far ahead here. We want to take care of business tonight and take it one game at a time as we head down the stretch.”
San Diego’s remaining 14 contests this season will come against Pacific Division opponents where the Gulls have posted a 28-14-2-2 record in the division. With six remaining home games during the regular season, San Diego looks to maintain home ice advantage with their 19-7-1-1 record at Valley View Casino Center which ranks sixth in the AHL in win percentage (.714).
“One of the reasons we play so well at home is due to our fans,” added Guenin. “They’ve been so great this entire season and we really need them over our last six home games.”
San Diego is 2-6-0 vs. Stockton this season, including 1-3-0 at Valley View Casino Center. All-time, San Diego is 8-7-4 vs. the Heat and 5-5-0 at home. San Diego won the most recent matchup on Jan. 11, 5-3, the lone home victory over Stockton this season. The Gulls other win came in a 3-2 shootout win Dec. 2 at Stockton. Stockton won back-to-back matchups in San Diego on Dec. 16 (5-3) and Dec. 17 (3-1). Kalle Kossila (3-5=8) and Kevin Roy (3-1=4) lead active Gulls in goals vs. the Heat, while Corey Tropp leads the club in assists (7) and points (9).
“I think we were kind of finding our way early in the season series,” said Guenin on matching up with Stockton for the first time since January. “And now we have our game where we like it. They definitely had our number earlier in the year but that’s over and tomorrow’s a new day.”
Corey Tropp has 10-12=22 points over his last 18 games and 27 points in the last 25 games overall (12-15=27), and leads the Gulls in scoring (18-30=48). Tropp co-leads the Gulls in assists and PPG (9), and ranks second on the club in goals. Tropp recorded a career high five-game goal streak from Feb. 25 to Mar. 10 (3-4=7), the longest of his career and tied for the longest Gulls goal scoring streak this season (Montour). He has also recorded two seven-game point streaks this season from Feb. 18 to Mar. 10 (6-6=12) and Nov. 5-27 (3-7=10) that are tied for his career long.
Also coming off a seven-game point streak is center Sam Carrick, who earned points in seven consecutive games with Rockford and San Diego from Feb. 25 to Mar. 10 (3-5=8). Carrick has earned 3-2=5 points in five games since joining San Diego.
Kevin Boyle (9-4-4) has posted a 9-2-3 record with one shutout, a 2.01 GAA and .931 SV% his last 14 appearances. Among AHL rookies, Boyle ranks second in GAA (2.19) and SV% (.927), and tied for seventh in shutouts (1).
The Heat have won four straight games dating back to Mar. 4 and sit just one point (.010 percentage points) away from overtaking the Bakersfield Condors for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Mark Jankowski paces Stockton with 22 goals and 42 points, while veteran Linden Vey leads all Heat skaters with 28 assists. Goaltender David Rittich (11-9-1) ranks third among all qualified AHL goaltenders with a 2.09 GAA and 9.29 SV%.
“They are a team that is hungry for points right now,” said Nic Kerdiles. “There’s not going to be a lot of space out there so we have to take care of the puck. We’re looking forward to the challenge and need to be on our toes.”