January 16, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Brendan Ranford’s hat trick goal with 2:42 remaining in the third period snapped a 3-3 tie, and the Texas Stars went on to win 5-3 over the San Diego Gulls, handing the Gulls their fifth consecutive loss. Ranford added an assist for a four-point night as Texas (21-14-3-3) improved to 3-0 against the Gulls this season.
Nick Ritchie scored his team-leading fifteenth goal and added two assists for San Diego (17-16-1-1), who nonetheless fell to 0-4-1 in their past five games, four on home ice. The Gulls rallied from three separate one-goal deficits before Ranford put Texas ahead for good, back-handing home a blue-line bid that banked off the back wall and connected to his stick.
San Diego’s fortunes have been tied inexorably to the game’s first goal this season, and the trend continued as Ranford opened the scoring on the night, beating Dustin Tokarski with a wrist shot high over the right shoulder and in at 5:27 of the first period. All sixteen of the Gulls’ regulation losses have come when conceding the first goal, while the team is 13-0-0-1 when scoring first.
San Diego would answer back with their third short-handed goal of the season, triggered by a thundering fore-check from Ritchie, who freed the puck and fed Kenny Ryan in front of the crease. Ryan held to bring Texas goalie Maxime Legace to the ice then slid the puck home at 17:13 of the first to knot the game at one.
In a seesaw contest, Texas would regain the lead early in the second period on Jason Dickinson’s ninth goal of the year, a power play tally, only to see San Diego equalize on Ritchie’s fifteenth goal of the year and eighth power play score at 10:04 of the frame.
Ranford would speak next, picking up the puck off a Julius Honka steal after a defensive turnover from San Diego and marching in unimpeded on Tokarski, holding before feathering the puck inside the far post for his second goal of the night and a 3-2 lead 8:40 into the third.
The Gulls had a third answer, this time on Stefan Noesen’s nifty drop pass at the edge of the crease to Chris Mueller, who beat Legace for his seventh goal of the season and a 3-3 tie at 13:50.
The Gulls held the Stars to nineteen shots and had opportunities to take the lead, but when Texas won a clean draw coming out of a San Diego timeout, Honka was ready to fire from outside, and the carom connected perfectly to Ranford, who beat the prone Tokarski for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
With the loss, San Diego falls .071 out of a playoff position in the AHL Pacific Division, and drops .001 behind the Bakersfield Condors into fifth place in the standings. The Gulls hit the road next for a three-game Lone Star road trip, playing Tuesday in San Antonio and Friday/Saturday in Cedar Park against the Stars.
NOTES: The NHL’s Anaheim Ducks assigned defenseman Simon Despres to a Long-Term Conditioning Loan with the Gulls; Despres was scoreless on three shots…Tokarski made his first appearance of the year for the Gulls after being acquired from Montreal in exchange for forward Max Friberg, stopping 14 of 18 shots faced…Noesen recorded a season-best two-point (0-2=2) game…Shane O’Brien scored a lone assist for San Diego…Texas forward and AHL leading scorer Travis Morin was held scoreless for the second straight game by the Gulls but registered a +2 rating…the hat trick for Ranford was just the third allowed by San Diego all season, joining Adrian Kempe of the Ontario Reign (11/5/15) and Tomas Jurco of the Grand Rapids Griffins (11/20/15).
1st Star: TEX Brendan Ranford (3-1=4); 2nd Star: SD Nick Ritchie (1-2=3); 3rd star: TEX Mattias Backman (0-2=2)