May 1, 2017
The Gulls continue their First Round series against the Ontario Reign with Game 4 tonight at Citizens Business Bank Arena (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). Tonight marks the first elimination game for San Diego this postseason, where a win would clinch a series win and a berth in the Pacific Division Finals. All-time, the Gulls have a 1=1 record in elimination games, succeeding in the Pacific Division Semifinals last year in Game 4 vs. the Texas Stars. San Diego also has a 1-1 record in Game 4.
Tonight will mark the 34th time the two clubs have faced on another in the regular season and playoffs dating back to the beginning of last season. With a 2-1 series lead, the Gulls are 3-5 vs. the Reign in the playoffs (1-3 at home, 2-2 on the road) but have posted an 10-5-0-1 record at Citizens Business Bank Arena (8-3-0-1 in the regular season).
San Diego took a 2-1 series lead when Nic Kerdiles scored the game-winning goal with 1:33 remaining when Ondrej Kase left the puck in the left wingers path and he rifled it over Reign goaltender Jack Campbell. Antoine Laganiere scored into the empty net to give the Gulls a 3-1 win and Nick Sorensen tallied two assists in the game for his second consecutive multi-point game after scoring both goals in San Diego’s 2-1 Game 2 victory. Sorensen currently leads the series with four points (2G/2A) and Kerdiles co-leads the club along with the Swedish native with two goals (2-1=3).
As has happened all season, the Gulls will face changes to the lineup for Game 4 after the Anaheim Ducks recalled the duo that produced the game-winner in Game 3. Nic Kerdiles and Ondrej Kase joined the Ducks yesterday as the NHL club traveled to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4 vs. the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round. San Diego has used a total of 51 players to date this season, so lineup changes are nothing new to a club that co-led the AHL with the most players used in the 2016-17 season.
Another focal point of the Gulls game will be controlling emotions, but maintaining a physical presence that this series featured since Game 1. Game 4 saw the physicality ramp up in addition to four power-play opportunities for Ontario.
“We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins when asked about Game 4 on Friday. “We took a couple penalties tonight that were totally unnecessary, and there’s no worse feeling in this game than to be sitting in the penalty box when the other team scores, especially in the playoffs. A game, it could cost you the series.”
Gulls Goaltender Jhonas Enroth (2-1) made 38 saves en route to his second straight win and now ranks second among AHL postseason goaltenders with a 1.67 goals-against average (GAA) and a .946 save percentage (SV%). Since joining San Diego on Jan. 10 in a trade from Toronto, Enroth has posted a 16-5-0 record with two shutouts, a 1.72 GAA and .936 SV% in 21 games (14-4-0 regular season, 2-1 playoffs). In his last five starts dating back to Apr. 12, Enroth is 4-1 with a 1.80 GAA and .940 SV%.
“We feel good about ourselves and hopefully they feel worse about themselves,” said Enroth. “We have momentum going into the next game and I think we’re going to come out flying (Monday).”
The Gulls have won five of the past six games (3-0-0-0 regular season, 2-1 playoffs), finishing the regular season on a three-game win streak and earning two consecutive wins after dropping Game 1 of the Pacific Division Semifinals. The Gulls have also posted a 17-7-1-0 mark in the last 25 games overall (15-6-1-0 regular season, 2-1 playoffs) and a 34-10-1-1 mark the last 46 games (32-9-1-1 regular season, 2-1 playoffs). On the road, San Diego has won 14 of the last 21 games away from home (13-6-1-0 regular season, 1-0 playoffs) and 18 of the final 26 road contests (17-6-1-1, 1-0 playoffs).
The Gulls have allowed the fewest goals against among playoff teams (5), leads the AHL in goals-against per game (1.67), co-leads the league in shorthanded goals (1), ranks third in power-play percentage (20.0%) and fifth in penalty killing (90.0%).