April 10, 2016
STOCKTON, Calif. – Ondrej Kase’s equalizing goal with 5:13 remaining in the third period allowed the San Diego Gulls to earn a tough point at Stockton Arena, before bowing 5-4 in sudden death. The Heat’s Freddie Hamilton netted the game-winner 1:26 into extra time as Stockton (31-30-2-2) kept their fleeting hopes for a playoff berth alive.
The Gulls (38-22-4-2) extended their points streak to seven games (5-0-2-0), reducing their magic number to clinch second place and first round home-ice in the Calder Cup Playoffs to one.
A hungry Stockton team grabbed the game’s first goal on Ryan Culkin’s shot through traffic from just inside the Heat blue line at 13:49 of the first period. San Diego leveled the score on rookie Kalle Kosilla’s power play goal 5:16 into the second stanza, potting a giveaway right in front of the Stockton goalmouth. Kosilla, in his third game on an amateur tryout (ATO) agreement, fashioned a career high three points (1-2=3).
In a back-and-forth affair, the Heat would regain the advantage during a penalty-filled second period that saw San Diego absorb six minor penalties. When Stockton grabbed a two-man advantage on simultaneous Gulls minors for high sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct, Mark Jankowski slammed home the rebound of a Hamilton wrist shot for his first pro goal, and a 2-1 Heat lead.
San Diego was next to speak, as the Heat again failed to patrol their most precious patch of ice properly. With a Stockton defender peeling off from the slot to provide an end-line passing angle, Kase stole the puck behind the net and spotted an unmarked Antoine Laganiere. The one-time shot by Laganiere found its way home for his sixteenth goal of the season at 17:40 of the second, good for a 2-2 tie.
The Gulls’ lone lead of the night came on the power play 2:17 into the third, when again Stockton gave the puck away down low. Veteran center Chris Mueller took his time to stick handle before ripping the puck past Schneider on the glove side high for his team-best 20th goal of the season, and a 3-2 San Diego lead.
It was Stockton’s turn to seesaw the game back in their favor, as Heat rookie Brett Pollack, on an amateur tryout in his second game, snuck a puck under the paddle of Gulls goalie Matt Hackett and through for the equalizer at 3:54 of the third. Austin Carroll’s goal at 10:53 put the Heat back on top 4-3.
San Diego’s point-gaining goal came on their only true scoring rush, with Kossila and Laganiere triggering Kase into the zone. The Czech Republic native stopped and dragged at the left circle before slotting his eighth goal of the season to tie the score at 4-4.
In overtime, the Gulls never truly gained possession of the puck as the Heat chose to employ a solid forecheck in the zone over intricate passing. Hamilton gained room on right wing before firing high over Hackett’s shoulder to net the game-winner, his 17th goal of the year.
The Gulls need to capture one point in their final two home games against the Ontario Reign, or have the Texas Stars drop one of their final four available points (in home games against San Antonio and Manitoba) to secure second place in the Pacific, and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
San Diego’s final home weekend of the regular season begins on Friday night with a 7pm faceoff against the Ontario Reign.
NOTES: The Gulls played for the second straight game with four ATO players in their lineup, as the NHL Anaheim Ducks recalled five San Diego skaters prior to the weekend…the Gulls are 13-3-1-1 over their past eighteen road games…San Diego was 2-for-5 on the power play, Stockton was 1-for-6…Jankowski’s goal on a two-man advantage was the first the Gulls had conceded all year when 3-on-5 defensively…Laganiere (1-1=2) and Kase (1-1=2) added multi-point games for San Diego…the Gulls finished their season series with the Heat with a 6-2-3-1 record…six of the twelve games in the series were decided by a single goal, with five going to overtime…Stockton has handed San Diego four of their six OT/SO losses this season.
1st Star: STK Freddie Hamilton (1-1=2, GWG); 2nd Star: STK Mark Jankowski (1-0=1); 3rd Star: STK Brett Pollack (1-0=1)