January 1, 2016
SAN ANTONIO, TX – The San Diego Gulls rang in the New Year on the right foot, picking up a 3-1 win on the road over the San Antonio Rampage. Mike Sgarbossa, Nick Ritchie and Chris Mueller scored for the Gulls (16-12-0-1), snapping a two-game losing streak.
On the heels of a 6-1 loss in Cedar Park the night before, the Gulls took the ice in San Antonio with a renewed sense of purpose, controlling puck possession through the majority of the game and outshooting the Rampage (14-12-7-0) 35-to-25. San Antonio saw their home-ice losing streak stretch to nine games (0-8-1).
A scoreless first period saw San Diego outshoot the Rampage 15-9, failing to convert on a lone power play chance but otherwise pacing the play. Hard work paid off just over a minute into the second period, as Mike Sgarbossa’s low and flat backhander from just inside the blue line slid through traffic and surprised Rampage goalie Spencer Martin, who saw the puck slide between his pads for a 1-0 Gulls lead at 1:03 of the second frame.
The lead would double just over two minutes later when Ritchie and Sgarbossa executed a give-and-go from left wing, the return pass catching Ritchie in the slot for a clean chance. The rookie winger’s twelfth goal of the season built San Diego’s lead to 2-0 at 3:29.
San Antonio answered with a power play goal by Reid Petryk, deflecting a pass from behind the end line in between sticks, narrowing the edge to 2-1 at the 10:22 mark of the second period. The Rampage, who entered the night with the fourth ranked power play in the American Hockey League (AHL), would enjoy a pair of opportunities early in the third period but could not break the Gulls’ penalty kill.
When Joseph Cramarossa drew a high-sticking penalty on the Rampage with under two minutes to play, San Antonio was forced into the uncomfortable position of pulling their goalie to draw to even strength. The gambit failed as Jaycob Megna and Stefan Noesen connected consecutive passes after Chris Mueller won the draw. Mueller received the final pass, skating in on the right wing to net the unusual empty-net power play goal for the game clincher at 19:06.
Anton Khudobin made 24 saves for the victory in net, improving to 4-1 since being assigned to the Gulls by the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
The Gulls will now enjoy a Saturday off in San Antonio before returning to AT&T Center to battle the Rampage once again on Sunday afternoon.
NOTES: Stu Bickel, Andrew O’Brien, Jaycob Megna all provided lone assists for the Gulls, while Noesen added his ninth assist of the year on Mueller’s empty netter…the Gulls improved to 13-0-0-1 when scoring the game’s first goal…San Diego has scored the first goal in eight of the team’s last nine wins…when Nick Ritchie scores a goal, the Gulls are 8-0-0-1…the Gulls now have 29 power play goals on the season, tied for the most in the AHL (Albany, Milwaukee, Texas)…Joseph Cramarossa returned from a one-game suspension for an instigator penalty against Bakersfield, going scoreless with two shots…Shayne Taker made his second appearance of the season for San Diego after signing a PTO out of Utah…Taker was scoreless with no shots.
1st Star: SD Mike Sgarbossa (1-1=2); 2nd Star: SD Nick Ritchie (1-1=2); 3rd star: SA Spencer Martin (32 saves)