February 19, 2016
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The San Diego Gulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead, hanging on from there for a 3-2 victory Friday night at Rabobank Arena. The Gulls (24-20-1-1) won for the first time in five tries in Bakersfield, snapping the Condors’ five-game winning streak.
Andrew O’Brien, Matt Bailey and Joseph Cramarossa found the back of the net for San Diego, with Cramarossa’s goal 9:13 into the second period proving to be the game-winner. Bakersfield (23-19-2-2) controlled the puck for much of the third period, but goalie Anton Khudobin made nine of his 26 saves in the final frame to preserve the Gulls victory.
The Condors entered the night having scored the first goal in 30 of their first 45 games; the Gulls had scored first in just 19 of 45 contests, but owned an 18-0-0-1 record when doing so. In this game, a wild scramble midway through the first period saw Khudobin lose his stick, pick up winger Stefan Noesen’s, and then watch as Brad Hunt’s shot from outside rang the left post but stayed out to preserve the scoreless tie.
Late in the first, Brian McGrattan rolled a puck out of the San Diego zone and through neutral ice, between two Condors and all the way through to Andrew O’Brien. Skating in on left wing, O’Brien was ahead of the defense and lifted a shot over Condors goalie Laurent Brossoit and into the net for his fourth goal of the year and a 1-0 San Diego lead at 16:13.
With the critical first goal in their hip pocket, the Gulls charged out of the locker room after first intermission and seized control of the game. Matt Bailey’s short-handed score, perfectly working a 2-on-1 with Antoine Laganiere, doubled the San Diego advantage 2:55 into the second frame.
Cramarossa turned on a Korbinian Holzer poke-check in the Condors zone and weaved below the right circle before beating Brossoit over the right shoulder to make it 3-0 Gulls at the 9:13 mark, stunning the crowd of 5,041 at Rabobank Arena.
The Condors began their comeback with a bit of good fortune, as a missed chance by San Diego right at the end of a Gulls power play turned into a stretch pass the other direction. Joshua Winquist jumped out of the penalty box on a breakaway, deking Khudobin left-to-right to finish his eighth goal of the year and put Bakersfield on the board at 17:15 of the second. The Gulls held a 3-1 lead after forty minutes.
The Condors took nine of the third period’s first ten shots, pressuring San Diego relentlessly in their zone. Winquist’s steal on an extended forecheck led to Andrew Miller’s goal from the left circle at 8:39 to make it a one-goal game. Preserving one-goal leads has proven to be the Gulls’ specialty this year, and San Diego held off the rest of the furious rally, improving to 15-1-1-1 in one-goal games and 20-0-0 when leading after two periods.
With the win, San Diego moves into a three-way tie with Bakersfield and San Jose for the third position in the AHL Pacific Division. All three teams hold 50 points and a .543 point percentage. The “Taco Cup” rivalry series between the Gulls and Condors remains in play, with Bakersfield holding an 11-to-6 point advantage and four games left in the season series.
The Gulls return home on Saturday night to play host to the division-leading Ontario Reign at 7:05 p.m.
NOTES: First goal has determined the winner in sixteen straight Gulls games and 21 of the last 22…Kyle Bonis added an assist on the O’Brien first period goal…McGrattan’s assist was his first point since scoring the game-winning goal January 3 in San Antonio; he was in his second game back after missing eight straight with an upper-body injury…San Diego beat AHL All-Star goalie Laurent Brossoit for the first time in regulation; Brossoit had been 3-0-1 against the Gulls with two shutouts in his first four starts.
1st Star: SD Joseph Cramarossa (1-0=1, GWG); 2nd Star: BAK Joshua Winquist (1-1=2); 3rd Star: BAK Andrew Miller (1-0=1)