March 26, 2017
On Saturday, March 25 the Gulls clinched their second-consecutive Calder Cup Playoffs berth since the launch of the AHL Gulls in San Diego last season. The Gulls became the second club this season to book their spot in the playoffs, yet didn’t clinch in emphatic fashion like the inaugural 2015-16 season. Despite losing 3-1 to the Bakersfield Condors the team booked their trip to the postseason after the Stockton Heat lost on March 25, 5-4, in a shootout to the Texas Stars.
“That was one of our goals all year and I think it was expected of this group to make the playoffs,” said Gulls defenseman and Nate Guenin. “So now its about getting ready for that and hopefully we can peak at the right time.”
The Gulls will be one of 16 teams participating in the postseason, with the top four teams in each of the four divisions as ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Home-ice advantage in all series will be granted to the team with the higher points percentage, and the format is a 1 vs. 4 seed and 2 vs. 3 Pacific Division seed to begin the First Round, with the respective series winners facing one another in the divisional finale prior to the Western Conference Final and Calder Cup Final.
“I don’t think it will change it one bit,” added Guenin on the team’s approach for the remained of the regular season. “All season the coaching staff has been emphasizing living in the present…we’ll be focusing on that. We wanted to make the playoffs and we did, so our approach won’t change.”
If the playoffs began today, the Gulls would find themselves second in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference (win percentage), meaning another postseason matchup between San Diego and Ontario, the primary affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The way things stand, San Diego would have home-ice advantage in the opening round. This season the Gulls have posted a 4-2-1-1 record against the Reign during the regular season and a 1-2-1-0 record at Valley View Casino Center. The teams still have four regular season matchups remaining this season, home-and-home series Apr. 7-8 and 14-15 to close out the campaign.
Other possible opponents in the first round could include the Bakersfield Condors (30-23-5-1, 66 pts.) or the Stockton Heat (28-25-4-2 62 pts.) depending on where the club finish in the regular season standings. San Diego sits three points and mere percentage points behind the San Jose Barracuda (39-14-2-4, 84 pts.) for first place in the pacific Division, with San Jose already having clinched a playoff spot and now trying to lock up the number one seed in the Western Conference. Bakersfield and Stockton are battling for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division, with the Condors leading Stockton by four points with nine games remaining for each team.
Last season in the Calder Cup Playoffs, the club clinched a playoff berth against the Condors on April 7, 2016 with a wild 6-5 comeback victory that saw San Diego erase a three-goal deficit to earn the team’s first appearance in the postseason. The Gulls defeated the Texas Stars in the first Calder Cup Playoffs series in franchise history, earning the best-of-five series victory three games to one. San Diego started the series on the road, splitting the opening two contests with a 3-1 win, and 5-1 loss at H-E-B Center. The series returned to San Diego for Games Three and Four, where the Gulls won both games convincingly by scores of 6-1 and 6-2 respectively.
Advancing to the Western Conference semifinal, San Diego faced Pacific Division rival Ontario Reign in a best-of-seven series that featured a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format, with alternating home games between the two clubs, rather than the convention 2-3-2 or 2-2-1-1-1 format often seen. The Gulls fell to the Reign in five games, falling 4-1 in a hard-fought series that featured two overtime games and three one-goal games. The Reign took Game 1 by a 5-3 scoreline, following by a Game 2 win in overtime (2-1). San Diego won Game 3 with a 3-0 shutout from Matt Hackett, but dropped Game 4 in overtime (4-3), and the deciding Game 5, 2-1.
With eight games remaining for the Gulls, a lot can take shape in not only the Pacific Division but the race to the best record in the Western Conference and AHL. With three home games and five road contests left in the regular season, the Gulls will soon learn their playoff fate and what’s to come in the postseason.
“It’s not the way we wanted to clinch a playoff spot, but we’re happy and we worked hard to get a playoff spot,” said Gulls left wing Nic Kerdiles. “To finally [clinch] is good news. We’ve got a lot of stuff we can take from this game and learn from it but we’re excited about being in the playoffs now.”