March 4, 2016
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls scored three goals in a 3:18 span of the second period, building a lead they would not relinquish in an eventual 3-1 victory over the Stockton Heat. The Gulls (28-20-1-2) won their fifth straight at Valley View Casino Center, where 6,370 fans saw San Diego push their points streak to six straight games (5-0-0-1).
Chris Mueller, Shea Theodore and Stefan Noesen, who each turned the lamp once, worked in close concert to create the three San Diego scores. Mueller and Noesen were on ice for all three goals, and Theodore for both power play tallies, as the Gulls scored on 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 advantages, back-to-back.
Anton Khudobin stopped 21-of-22 shots faced for the win in net, improving his record to 12-6-2, including an 8-1-1 streak in his past 10 starts. The Gulls held the AHL’s top shooting team, the Heat (23-23-1-2) to just 22 shots, ten fewer than their season average. San Diego outshot Stockton by a final margin of 34-22.
The first period saw Stockton carry the lion’s share of puck possession, but they could not convert some late flurries into the game’s first goal. Scoreless after twenty minutes, the Gulls came out of the locker room with a renewed burst and swarmed the Heat from start to finish in the second frame.
The night’s first goal came after Noesen turned from between the penalty boxes and fired a long shot in on Heat goalie Kevin Poulin, surprising both the net-minder and the Stockton defense. Chris Mueller followed the puck in, slammed a rebound shot off Poulin and back to his stick, where he found space to slide the puck into the net for his 12th goal of the season and a 1-0 San Diego lead at 3:25.
Moments later, the Heat took back-to-back minor penalties within 29 seconds, and the Gulls were happy to capitalize. First it was Theodore on the 5-on-3 advantage, sneaking a wrist shot past Poulin on assists from Mike Sgarbossa and Brandon Montour for a 2-0 San Diego lead at 5:35 of the second period.
The back end of the two minors was equally fruitful for San Diego, as this time Noesen used hard work to keep the play alive in front of the Heat net, banging home a rebound goal at 6:43 from Mueller and Montour to complete the 1-2-3 punch and the 3-0 Gulls lead.
A power play rebound goal by Stockton’s Emile Pourier at 11:47 of the third period denied Khudobin’s bid for his first shutout of the season, but the Gulls would find the path to victory, improving to 4-2-0-1 against the Heat and 4-0-0 on home ice against Stockton.
The win lifted San Diego to 59 points and a .578 points percentage, climbing within .028 of the Texas Stars for second place in the AHL Pacific Division. Gulls and Heat will meet once again on Saturday night at Valley View Casino Center to complete the weekend back-to-back series.
NOTES: By scoring first and then winning, the Gulls kept their remarkable streak alive: San Diego is 23-0-0-1 when scoring the game’s first goal, a .979 points percentage…first goal has picked the winner in 21 straight Gulls games, 26 of the last 27 and 37 of the last 39…Noesen matched his season-high with seven shots on goal…Chris Mueller has 5-10=15 points in his last 12 games…Brandon Montour’s two power play assists increased his AHL-leading totals on power play points (27) and assists (22)…the Gulls have converted on five of their last nine power play chances.
1st Star: SD Shea Theodore (1-0=1, 5 shots, +2 rating); 2nd Star: SD Stefan Noesen (1-1=2, 7 shots, +1 rating); 3rd Star: SD Chris Mueller (1-1=2, 6 shots, +1 rating)