January 19, 2016
SAN ANTONIO – Kenny Ryan’s penalty shot in the second period proved to be the game-winner as the San Diego Gulls built a 2-0 lead after forty minutes and held on for a 2-1 victory at AT&T Center. Goalies Dustin Tokarski and Matt Hackett combined to stop 40-of-41 shots faced, earning the win for San Diego (18-16-1-1), ending a 0-4-1 streak for the Gulls.
Tokarski, who stopped 32-of-32 shots faced to earn his first win in his second Gulls start, was lost to a lower-body injury 2:33 into the third period when Rampage winger Daniel Maggio collided with the net-minder in the crease. Hackett, recalled from the ECHL Utah Grizzlies prior to the game, stopped nine-of-ten shots faced in the third period to secure Tokarski’s victory.
The Gulls, who swept all three games this season at AT&T Center and improved to a 4-0 record against the Rampage, survived a sloppy first period, which saw them outshot 11-3. On the wrong end of penalties for delay of game and too many men on the ice, Tokarski made his toughest saves during the frame, and San Diego crept to the locker room in a scoreless tie.
The Gulls would net the game’s first goal on a team-up between two unlikely teammates. Simon Despres, on the second game of a Long-Term Injury Conditioning Loan from the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, fired a blue line blast which was deflected by Zac Larraza, himself on a Professional Try Out (PTO) from the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs. Larraza’s tip found its way past Rampage goalie Roman Will for a 1-0 lead at 3:27, with a second assist credited to Bryan Moore.
Scoring the first goal for just the 15th time in 36 games, the Gulls improved to 14-0-0-1 when doing so, second only to Ontario (17-0-1-0) for the best first-goal conversion percentage in the AHL.
At the conclusion of an Antoine Laganiere tripping penalty in the second period, San Diego’s Kenny Ryan tipped a loose puck forward and split the San Antonio defensemen down the middle for a breakaway. Ryan was pulled down in front of the net and awarded a penalty shot, which he converted, beating Will up high for his second goal of the season, and second in as many games.
The Gulls carried their 2-0 lead late into the third period, when San Antonio pulled their goalie and Alex Belzile fired home his first of the season from outside at 18:43 to narrow the gap. San Diego would hold off the final flurry from the Rampage (16-18-7-0), who saw their franchise record home ice losing streak stretch to thirteen games.
The Gulls will travel to Austin, Texas on Wednesday in advance of a weekend back-to-back against the Texas Stars, beginning on Friday night at 5:30pm Pacific Time from Cedar Park Center.
NOTES: Ryan’s penalty shot was the fourth taken by the Gulls this season (Montour, Sgarbossa, Bonis) and the first converted; AHL skaters are now 7-for-26 (26.9%) on penalty shots this year…the Gulls are 14-0-0-0 when leading after two periods and 11-1-1-1 in one-goal games…the Rampage have lost four straight overall…The Rampage listed six injury scratches at forward with the Gulls marking seven…San Diego, however, gained back a key veteran winger in Harry Zolniercyzk, who returned to the lineup after missing 25 games with a lower body injury…Zolniercyzk was scoreless with one shot on the night…Brian McGrattan was helped off the ice by medical personnel after falling during a fight in the second period; McGrattan regained consciousness, was alert and had full mobility after being assisted off the ice…San Diego was out-shot 41-22 and went 0-for-5 on the power play.
1st Star: SD Dustin Tokarski (32 saves); 2nd Star: SD Zac Larraza (1-0=1); 3rd star: SA Alex Belzile (1-0=1)