May 12, 2017
The Gulls continue their Pacific Division Finals series against the San Jose Barracuda tonight with Game 4 at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). San Jose leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1, after stealing Game 3 that featured fast-paced, back and forth hockey with both teams finishing regulation knotted at three goals apiece.
San Jose erased three one-goal deficits and Timo Meier score 17:40 into overtime for the 4-3 victory in Game 3. The 77:40 marked the longest playoff game in Gulls history, surpassing the previous mark of 71:55 in Game 2 vs. Ontario in the Pacific Division Finals on May 7, 2016 (2-1 Ontario win).
“I thought last night was our best game and a game that I thought we should have won,” said Gulls Head Coach Dallas Eakins.
Max Jones opened the scoring in the first period. Jones’ first professional goal came off the rebound with just under five minutes left in the first 20:00, but the lead only lasted 1:07 after the Barracuda quickly responded.
“I thought it was his best game with us, so far,” said Eakins. “Jones can really skate, he brings us some size and a little bit of snarl.”
“He’s been really good,” said forward Stu Bickel. “He’s super athletic, he’s got young legs, he’s moving fast out there and he’s got really good intangibles.”
Nic Kerdiles (3-3=6) and Spencer Abbott (1-5=6) lead the pack in postseason points through eight games. After returning to the lineup, Spencer Abbott recorded his first multi-point game of the postseason (1-2=3) and tied the franchise record for points scored in a playoff game (3).
The Gulls enter tonight’s Game 4 having won seven of the past eight home games vs. San Jose dating back to Jan. 13. 2015 (7-0-1) and have outscored the Barracuda 27-14 in six contests this season at Valley View Casino Center. All-time, the Gulls are 8-1-2-1 on home ice vs. San Jose.
The Barracuda continue to be led by forward Ryan Carpenter, who has 6-5=11 points in eight playoff games and 2-2=4 points through three games in the series. Right wing Buddy Robinson also has 4-4=8 points in eight playoff games, while goaltender Troy Grosenick (5-3) has posted a 2.38 GAA and .910 SV% in San Jose’s eight postseason contests.
“They are definitely a high-paced team,” said forward Nic Kerdiles who reassigned to San Diego by the Anaheim Ducks just prior to the start of Game 3. “They skate very well, they have a lot of skill. On the other side, we have guys on this team that have this skill too.”
The Gulls and the Anaheim Ducks, San Diego’s primary affiliate in the National Hockey League (NHL), are the only AHL and NHL affiliations remaining in their respective playoffs. The Gulls and Ducks were joined by the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and St. Louis Blues (NHL), and the Hershey Bears (AHL) and Washington Capitals (NHL) as the three affiliations to each make it to the second round of their respecting playoffs, but the Ducks eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 Wednesday evening to advance to the Western Conference Final vs. the Nashville Predators.
With Anaheim continuing to play deep into the playoffs, and the Gulls looking to even their series with San Jose, the organization’s depth has been tested in recent weeks with injuries hitting both clubs. San Diego has used a total of 52 different players from the start of the season, most in the AHL, while 18 players appeared for both the Gulls and Ducks throughout the season. With a plethora of young players that are ready to contribute, Eakins feels that no matter the lineup the team will be ready to compete.
“It’s not hard because what we’re teaching them is going to be imperative for them to learn if we are going to win,” said Eakins. “It’s not even so much for the individual, it’s for the team as well. It’s quite simple. We look at the skill set that we need in this series. It is a little different than our last series. We’re just trying to turn the guys that we think that can carry out the roles that are available with all of the injuries and all the call ups.”
With two additional injuries hitting the forward group during Game 3, the Gulls may need to pull from the aforementioned depth and continue what they’ve done all season by maintaining the same systems and a sense of self belief in the team ethos rather than that of the individual.
“We’re probably going to insert a couple more youngsters here as we suffered some injuries again last night,” said Eakins. “It’s plug and play. We expect a high level of play and intensity from all of our players in the lineup. These guys aren’t guys we just found on the street, these guys are draft picks, guys that have been signed by our organization and we have a level of expectation with them.”
“There’s really no panic, everyone in our group is pretty confident,” said Bickel. “We talked about that this morning and some in house stuff and I don’t think there’s any panic going forward here. I think we’re pretty confident here in the series.”