April 29, 2016
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls punched their ticket to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs with a 6-2 win over the Texas Stars on Friday night in front of a spirited crowd of 7,509 at Valley View Casino Center. In their inaugural AHL season, the Gulls move on to the Pacific Division finals to face the Ontario Reign in a best-of-seven series starting on Thursday, May 5 at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Rebounding from a scary double injury 5:54 into the first period, the Gulls rallied behind backup goalie Matt Hackett (21 saves on 23 shots faced) and a relentless offense paced by Chris Mueller (1-2=3) to win their series over the Stars three games to one. After losing five of six regular season contests, the Gulls came back to outscore the Stars 16-9 in the four-game series.
San Diego defenseman Brandon Montour collided with starting goalie Anton Khudobin at the 5:54 mark of the first period, with both players needing to be helped off the ice. While Khudobin did not return (upper body), Montour (lower body) dramatically came back on the ice just seconds before the puck dropped to start the second period.
“We’ve had ups and downs all season, be it injuries or call-ups,” said head coach Dallas Eakins, “No matter who is in the lineup, there’s an expectation for an effort level and a level of execution.”
It’s been a great experience to watch these young men believe in themselves and have the confidence, no matter who’s in the lineup, to get the job done.”
Holding a 5-on-3 advantage to start the second, the Gulls’ Chris Mueller won the period’s opening draw forward at center ice, pouncing on the puck and skating in behind the defense to beat goalie Jack Campbell seven seconds in for a 2-1 lead.
The second Gulls power play would be just as effective, with Antoine Laganiere using the backhand to rake home a rebound goal from inside the right circle at 1:17 of the second period for a 3-1 advantage.
San Diego took eleven minutes of penalties in the second period, but when Kyle MacKinnon and Joseph Cramarossa teamed up on a short-handed steal and goal 8:20 into the frame, the Gulls were up 4-1 and heading toward the second round.
Ondrej Kase scored on the power play for San Diego at 7:34 of the third period, as the Gulls went 3-for-6 with the man advantage on the night. Brett Ritchie and Brendan Ranford had goals for Texas on the evening, but when the Stars pulled reserve goalie Maxime Legace in the closing minutes, Cramarossa’s empty netter at 17:22 put a cherry on top of the Gulls’ first-ever AHL Calder Cup playoff series victory.
San Diego and Ontario, the top two teams in the AHL Pacific Division during the regular season, will now meet in a best-of-seven series to determine who moves on to the Western Conference Finals. The series will alternate venues game-to-game, starting with Game 1 in Ontario on Thursday, May 5 (7:00 p.m. PDT), and continuing to Game 2 in San Diego on Saturday, May 7 (7:05 p.m. PDT).
NOTES: Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins is now 9-1 in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs in his coaching career…the Gulls are 34-0-0 (regular and postseason) when leading after forty minutes…Shea Theodore had the game’s first goal for San Diego and registered a +2 rating; he has 1-3=4 points and a +5 rating in two Calder Cup playoff games…MacKinnon, Stefan Noesen, Mike Sgarbossa, Nick Ritchie, Matt Bailey and Brandon Montour all registered single assists…Corey Tropp received a five minute major boarding penalty and game misconduct in the second period…the Gulls out-shot the Stars 37-29 on the game…the Stars were held to two power play goals in 21 opportunities for the series.
1st Star: SD Matt Hackett (21 saves on 23 shots faced); 2nd Star: SD Joseph Cramarossa (2-0=2, +2 rating, 2 SOG); 3rd Star: SD Chris Mueller (1-2=3, +1 rating, 2 SOG)