February 24, 2016
STOCKTON, Calif. – Stefan Noesen’s short-handed goal with 3:00 remaining in the second period allowed the San Diego Gulls (25-20-1-2) to pull out one point on the road in Stockton, tying the host Heat 3-3 before falling in a shootout by a 4-3 final score. Kenny Agostino’s goal in the first round of shootouts was the only score for either team at Stockton Arena, witnessed by 2,607 fans.
The Heat (22-21-1-2) won for the eleventh time in twelve home games, carried on the shoulders of goalie Kevin Poulin, who stopped 47-of-50 shots faced and all three in the shootout. San Diego out-shot Stockton 38-to-18 in the final two periods and overtime, and 50-to-33 in the final total.
Stockton scored on the first shift of the game, with Freddie Hamilton finishing clean passes from Kenny Agostino and Aaron Johnson over the left shoulder of San Diego goalie Anton Khudobin just 21 seconds into the contest.
At the 1:54 mark of the first period, it was 2-0 Stockton, as the Heat held possession at the blue line after a couple initial forays down low. Johnson’s shot from the left point was deflected by Turner Elson past Khudobin for his ninth goal of the year and a microwave-fast two-goal advantage.
As he has in key spots for the past several games, Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins turned to his fourth line of Andrew O’Brien, Kyle MacKinnon and Brian McGrattan for an energy burst. While the center on the “energy line” has changed from game to game (Kyle Bonis and Matt Bailey have had turns), the wingers have been consistent, and so have the results. MacKinnon’s rebound goal at 15:04, from veterans McGrattan and Shane O’Brien, put San Diego on the board in a 2-1 game.
The Heat found a seeming back-breaker when Kenny Agostino’s sweeping centering pass from the right wall connected with Garnet Hathaway, who deflected the puck past Khudobin at 19:01 of the first period for a 3-1 Stockton lead.
Just 37 seconds later, the Gulls had matched the Heat in last minute shockers, as again the “energy line” delivered with McGrattan’s feed from behind the end line snuck off the right leg of Poulin and home, stunning the hosts to make the score 3-2 Stockton.
The Gulls picked up their intensity out of the first intermission, out-shooting the Heat 17-to-8 in the second period. Brandon Montour rang the left post midway through the frame but Poulin was able to find the rebound. Later in the period, Hamilton was freed all alone inside the right circle on Khudobin. Anton reached out to deflect the initial bid, but the puck trickled behind him and toward the goal, where Chris Mueller swept the puck off the line to prevent a fourth Stockton score.
It was on the power play where Stockton would see the visitors tie the score. With Andrew O’Brien in the penalty box on a high sticking minor, Gulls defenseman Korbinian Holzer banked a defensive zone clearance off the high glass and down the ice, where the carom connected with the stick of Stefan Noesen behind the Stockton skaters. Noesen beat Poulin to his right, knocking the puck just inside the left post and in for his sixth goal of the season at 17:00 of the second.
San Diego controlled the action through much of the third period but could not solve Poulin any more, including a key combination save in the final minutes to preserve the tie. With the overtime loss, the Gulls collect their 53rd point of the season and are in a flat-footed tie with the San Jose Barracuda with a .552 points percentage.
The Gulls return home for Friday-Saturday contests at Valley View Casino Center against the San Antonio Rampage and the Barracuda. Both games are set for 7:05 faceoffs.
NOTES: The Gulls salvaged a single road point in a game for the first time in their 26th road game of the season; San Diego entered the night 13-12-0 on the road and 1-0 (overtime)/2-0 (shootout) in road overtime games…the team scoring the night’s first goal has gone on to win the game in eighteen straight Gulls games, 23 of the last 24 and 34 of the last 36…San Diego went 0-for-2 on the power play and has failed in fifteen straight attempts with the man advantage…conversely, the Gulls’ penalty kills has stopped thirteen straight man advantages against, scoring twice short-handed along the way…the Gulls’ short-handed goal was their eighth of the year, tied with six other teams for the third-best total in the AHL (Toronto/Utica lead with 10)…Ondrej Kase, Mike Sgarbossa and Stefan Noesen shot for San Diego in the shootout.
1st Star: STK Kenny Agostino (GWG in shootouts, 0-2=2); 2nd Star: SD Kyle MacKinnon (1-1=2, +3 rating); 3rd Star: STK Freddie Hamilton (1-1=2)