March 5, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Emile Poirier’s second goal of the night was a sudden death overtime game winner, as the Stockton Heat pulled out a wild 5-4 victory over the San Diego Gulls in extra time at Valley View Casino Center. The Gulls (28-20-2-2) extended their points streak to seven games (5-0-1-1).
Mike Sgarbossa and Chris Mueller each netted a pair of goals for the Gulls, who picked up their 60th point of the season, holding on to third place in the AHL’s Pacific Division. San Diego is three points ahead of fourth place San Jose, and five points ahead of Bakersfield to stay in playoff position.
San Diego’s streak of turning first goals into victories came to an end on a Saturday night that featured wide-open hockey in front of 7,399 fans. Chris Mueller’s score for San Diego, just 56 seconds into the game on a deflection off Heat goalie Kent Simpson, gave the Gulls an early 1-0 lead.
Stockton would answer quickly with a deflected goal of their own, with Turner Elson banking a shot off the upper body of San Diego defenseman Shane O’Brien and into the net for an equalizer at 2:53 of the first period.
Kenny Morrison’s slap shot from the left circle got past San Diego goalie Matt Hackett at 6:05 to give Stockton the 2-1 lead, but the Gulls answered back on a pretty goal from Mike Sgarbossa, weaving and stick-handling in from the left circle before beating Simpson on the backhand for his twelfth goal of the year and a 2-2 tie at 12:41.
Emile Poirier’s first of the night at 17:11 gave Stockton the 3-2 lead after twenty minutes of back-and-forth hockey. When Hunter Shinkaruk lifted a goal over Hackett’s shoulder and into the net 3:11 into the second period, the Heat were up by a 4-2 count and goalie Anton Khudobin was headed into the action in relief of Hackett.
Khudobin stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced in 39 minutes of action to help the Gulls pick up a much-needed point in the standings. Sgarbossa’s second of the night, a tip of Joseph Cramarossa’s bid from the right wall, stole one back for San Diego to make it a 4-3 game heading into the third period.
The Gulls found their equalizer in quick fashion, with Chris Mueller snapping home a shot off the draw, won clean by Nic Kerdiles in the Stockton zone just fourteen seconds into the third period. The 4-4 tie held only thanks to the diligence of the Heat’s Kent Simpson, who made 16 saves in the third period, several of dynamic fashion.
In 3-on-3 overtime, a pair of solid Gulls chances came up empty and on the ensuing rush, Poirier and Mason Raymond worked a 2-on-1 rush up the ice to satisfaction, with Poirier working in a re-direction at 2:44 to end Stockton’s six-game road losing streak. The Heat (24-23-1-2) improved to 51 points and a .510 points percentage.
The Gulls begin a crucial home-and-home set with the Bakersfield Condors next week, beginning Tuesday night at Rabobank Arena, with the return leg in San Diego on Friday. The Gulls will close the week in Ontario on Saturday night.
NOTES: First goal did not pick the winner tonight, snapping a streak of 21 straight Gulls games…San Diego did, however, manage to avoid a regulation loss after scoring the game’s first goal; the Gulls are 23-0-1-1 when scoring first…Chris Wagner was reassigned to the Gulls prior to game time from the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks…Corey Tropp picked up his first point with San Diego, assisting on Mueller’s first period goal…Chris Mueller moved into the team’s points lead with his two goals, now leading San Diego with 14-29=43 points…Brandon Montour was held without a point but accrued a +3 rating with eight shots on the night…Shane O’Brien had two assists for the Gulls in the loss…the point secured was only San Diego’s third of the season when trailing after two periods (1-16-1-0).
1st Star: STK Emile Poirier (GWG, 2-0=2, 5 SOG); 2nd Star: SD Mike Sgarbossa (2-0=2, +1 rating, 3 SOG); 3rd Star: STK Hunter Shinkaruk (1-1=2, +1 rating, 3 SOG)