March 30, 2016
STOCKTON, Calif. – Anton Khudobin made 38 saves on 40 shots faced and Matt Bailey contributed a goal and assist to the San Diego Gulls’ 4-2 victory over the Stockton Heat on Wednesday night at Stockton Arena. Chris Wagner chipped in a pair of assists as the Gulls (35-22-2-2) moved back into second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division by .007 percentage points over the Texas Stars.
Bailey (short handed), Stefan Noesen (power play), Kenny Ryan and Nick Ritchie (empty net) scored goals for San Diego, while Khudobin repeatedly saved the Gulls in the early going with athletic saves, including a diving post-to-post effort, on route to his 19th win of the season.
The first period was scoreless only thanks to Khudobin’s heroics, denying Turner Elson’s bid on a give-and-go six minutes into the contest that would have put the Heat on top. The Gulls had three power plays but came up empty against Heat netminder Nick Schneider, an 18-year-old making his professional debut out of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Stockton scored first when another teenager, 19-year-old Oliver Kylington, joined the Heat rush from his blue line, tipping home a backhand bid off Freddie Hamilton’s pass over Khudobin to make it a 1-0 score at 4:05 of the second period.
Short handed with defenseman Jaycob Megna in the box for an elbowing call, the Gulls found the equalizer when Corey Tropp was given too much room to operate on the right wall after intercepting a pass at his blue line. Tropp waited for Matt Bailey to crash the slot before feeding him the pass, which Bailey fired home at 6:22 of the second to capture a 1-1 tie.
Later in the period, the Heat were caught with too many men on the ice and the penalty proved costly. After Ondrej Kase held the puck in the zone while falling to his seat, Nic Kerdiles fed Chris Wagner for a point shot, deflected into the net by Stefan Noesen for his tenth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
Holding the one-goal advantage after forty minutes, the Gulls would build on their lead when Bailey spotted Kenny Ryan with a pass off the far sidewall in the offensive zone. Ryan snuck behind the Heat defense with a burst of speed before using a right-to-left deke to sneak a backhand shot past Schneider and a 3-1 lead at 7:08 of the third.
Drew Shore’s goal for Stockton at 11:24 of the third period brought the hosts back within one, but the Gulls held off the Heat’s final charge, and Ritchie skated across two lines off assists by Wagner and Ryan before firing in the game sealer, his 16th goal of the year and first since being reassigned to San Diego by the NHL Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
The Gulls, who finished 3-1-0 on their four-game road trip through Ontario, San Jose and Stockton, return home on Saturday night against the San Jose Barracuda to open up a three-game home stand at Valley View Casino Center.
NOTES: Bailey earned top star for the second straight game on the road trip…hanging on to win after carrying a 2-1 lead into second intermission, the Gulls improved to 29-0-0 when leading after two periods…San Diego is 12-3-0-1 over its last 16 road games…the Heat lost in regulation on home ice for just the third time in 2016 (14-3-1-0)…the line of Antoine Laganiere, Matt Bailey and Corey Tropp contributed a goal, two assists and a +3 rating; over the past six games, Laganiere-Bailey-Tropp has exploded for 7-16=23 points and a +24 rating…the Gulls are 32-7-1-2 when scoring 3+ goals, and 24-10-0-1 when scoring a power play goal…Stockton has failed to convert on their past eighteen power plays, including an 0-for-3 against the Gulls on Wednesday night.
1st Star: SD Matt Bailey (1-1=2 points, +1 rating); 2nd Star: SD Anton Khudobin (38 saves on 40 shots faced); 3rd Star: STK Nick Schneider (34 saves on 37 shots faced)