Dec. 13, 2016
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The San Diego Gulls (11-8-0-1; 23 pts.) open a season-long five-game homestand as they host the Ontario Reign (10-5-5-0; 25 pts.) for Rivalry Night at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., ESPN 1700).
San Diego has dropped two consecutive games for the first time since early November, and look to get back to their winning ways at Valley View Casino Center where the club matched a club record on Dec. 6 with their sixth consecutive home victory (also Oct. 10-Nov. 11, 2015). The Gulls look to win their seventh consecutive win on home ice dating back to Nov. 11 vs. Manitoba after jumping out to an 8-2-0 record on home ice this season.
The Gulls defeated Ontario in their last meeting on Nov. 27 with four different Gulls notching goals to lift the Gulls over the Ontario Reign, 4-3. Chris Wagner, Kevin Roy Antoine Laganiere and Kalle Kossila scored for the Gulls to improve the club’s record to 9-5-0-0 vs. the Reign all-time (4-3 at Valley View Casino Center). This will be the third meeting between the two teams, with each claiming the victory on away ice. The Reign opened their season at Valley View Casino Center on Oct. 15, handing San Diego their first loss of the season.
San Diego has earned points in nine of their last 12 games (9-3), outscoring opponents 35-28 in the process. During the last 12 contests, San Diego has allowed three goals or less on all but one occasion, and has earned a 10-3-1 record when doing so this season. The Gulls have posted a 9-7-0-0 record vs. the Pacific Division this season and have won seven of the last eleven contests against divisional foes.
One reason for the Gulls’ solid defensive play over the past 12 games has been defenseman Jeff Schultz, a veteran presence and leadership on the back end that knows what Rivalry Night entails. Last season, Schutlz was a member of the Ontario Reign, appearing in 66 regular season contests and 13 playoff games, including the Pacific Division Finals vs. San Diego.
“Being on the other side last year we know what these games are like. They’re hard-fought, close games almost like a playoff-style mentality,” said Schultz. “We’re looking to rebound from a tough weekend and trying to get back to the basics.”
“I thought we kind of got away from them the last couple games and it’s just doing the little things right, getting the details back into our game. We want to focus on us more than them.”
In terms of defensive play, Dustin Tokarski has led the Gulls at home with a perfect 6-0-0-0 on home ice this season, posting a 1.95 GAA and .919 SV%. Tokarski ranks tied fox sixth among league leaders in wins this season (9) and has been a solid presence in net for a young team in front of him.
Corey Tropp continues to be a pain for the Reign, with the veteran winger scoring 3-3=6 points in five career games. He continues to lead the Gulls in points (19) and assists (13), and ranks second in goals scored (6), while rookie center Kevin Roy leads the club with eight goals and ranks among the top five in goal scoring among league rookies. Brandon Montour paces active Gulls skaters in career scoring vs. Ontario with 1-7=8 points in 13 career games. Antoine Laganiere co-leads San Diego with three goals (3-0=3) vs. the Reign in 10 career contests.
San Diego hopes to get contributions from its leaders tonight, but it’s more about the play on the ice and nothing helps a team get back on track than facing a formidable rival in front of a raucous crowd at home.
“I think it’s a great game for us to bounce back, kind of have a gut check moment,” said Guenin. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to last weekend. Playing Ontario brings out the best in both teams. We have to bring the intensity for that game and that’s something that we may have been lacking a bit this past weekend. Those games are always entertaining for the fans and they’re pretty fun to play in.”
On the other side of the ice, the Reign travel to San Diego with a 5-2-4-0 record on the road this season. Ontario has picked up points in their last five games (3-0-2-0) and have outscored opponents 19-12 in the process. The Reign are led by winger Jonny Brodzinski whose 7-10=17 points lead the club and T.J. Hensick who has registered 7-9=16 points in 20 contests.
A key to tonight’s game is perfecting special teams. The Gulls are 7-2-0-0 when scoring a power play goal and 6-3-0-0 when not allowing a goal on the penalty kill. During San Diego’s eight-game win streak, special teams played a key role with the team killing 89.9% (3-for-29) of opponent’s penalties () and the power play scoring seven goals (7-for-24, 29%).