The Gulls look to score some revenge as they host the Stockton Heat in the final home game of October tonight at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). San Diego and Stockton face off for the third consecutive time in six nights, and the third of eight matchups during the 2017-18 season series.
All-time, San Diego has a 9-11-3-1 record against Stockton in 24 matchups since 2015, with San Diego posting a 6-3-2-0 record on home ice. After dropping the first two games over the weekend in Stockton by scores of 4-2 and 6-3, San Diego (2-3-0-0, 4 pts.) is hoping for a different result this go around.
Gulls winger Giovanni Fiore mentioned the teams eagerness to face the Heat for another shot at redemption following the weekend series in Northern California.
“I see it as another opportunity,” said Fiore, who who has four points in four career contests (1-3=4) and the first Gulls rookie to score points in his first four career games. “It’s a tight league and you play the same teams several times, we just have to battle back and find our way. We have another chance to get back out there. You never want to lose three (games) to the same team.”
The Heat come into San Diego with a 4-2-0-0 record following their back-to-back wins over the weekend. Stockton center Mark Jankowski who collected eight points (5G/3A) in six games this season wasn recalled by the Calgary Flames, but forward such as Andrew Mangipane and Garnet Hathaway present difficult challenges for the Gulls defense. Mangipane recorded three assists against the Gulls over the weekend and Hathaway netted a pair of goals. Goaltender Jon Gillies (3-1-0) turned aside 55-of-60 shots in the two-game weekend series, and has a 2.76 GAA and .914 SV% in four starts to date.
Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins knows how tough of a challenge knocking off this well-rounded Stockton team will be.
“They’ve got a lot of speed, and they’ve got some bite too, and that combined usually makes it a good hockey game.” said Eakins. “We just got away from some of the habits we’re trying to teach. They’re not quite habits yet. Once they do turn into habits, we’ll have greater success. Stockton are built a lot like us. They’ve gave the bite, they’ve have some speed, they’ve got enough skill. In the end it’s a bit like playing ourselves.”
On the San Diego side, defenseman Andy Welinski will be trying to start a new point streak after his career-high four game streak (1-4=5) came to end last Saturday. Winger Spencer Abbott (Hamilton Ont.), fresh off recording his 200th career AHL point on Saturday night will be trying to build off of his two goal performance against the Heat.
“There are always positives I think you can take from the game,” Abbott said referring to Saturday’s contest before looking forward to Wednesday. “I think that’s what we are going to try and do for this one.”
Goaltender Leland Irving, who made his Gulls debut in relief of Kevin Boyle on Friday night, and his first start for San Diego Saturday vs. the Heat, summed it up best in anticipation of tonight’s contest.
“Back on home ice, we have got to regroup and bring our game for 60 minutes,” the Barrhead, Alberta native said. “It’s going to take every guy in this room to come away with two points. That’s a good team over there.”
Eakins made sure his players know that the odd scheduling quirk of playing the same team three times in a row is a challenge that they must rise to meet, and getting off to a good start is imperative to be successful.
“We want to get out, we don’t want to chase the game,” Eakins said about getting off to a good start tonight. “We’d like to score first. Our record is very good when we do score first. Everyone has to bring their game up five percent. This isn’t a ‘We have to be way better.’ We just need to be a little bit better.”