Jan. 5, 2018
The Gulls (16-13-1-0, 33 pts., .550 win %) will open a four-game homestand beginning with a back-to-back against the San Jose Barracuda (15-12-0-2, 32 pts, .552 win %) at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). San Diego opens their home schedule for the 2018 calendar year following a 22-11-0-0 mark in 2017, and the team enter tonight’s contest with wins in seven of the last nine contests (7-2-0-0) and nine of their last 12 (9-3-0). In the second meeting of the eight-game season series, San Jose visits San Diego for the first time this season where the Gulls have won seven straight home games (7-0-0-0) against San Jose dating back to Feb. 27, 2016 and are 8-1-1-1 all-time at home against the Barracuda.
San Diego is coming off a record game at Texas Wednesday night where Corey Tropp and Kalle Kossila set new club records. Tropp scored the second hat trick and first natural hat trick (three consecutive goals in a game) in club history to lead the Gulls to a 4-3 win over the Stars at H-E-B Center. He netted three goals for the first time his AHL career, all three PPG, in a span of 3:32 in the second period (7:39, 8:15 and 11:11), the first Gull to score three power-play goals in a game. With the goals, Tropp tied the Gulls all-time club record for points in consecutive games, extending his point streak to a career high nine games (8-6=14) to match a nine-game point streak set by Nic Kerdiles from Feb. 26-Mar. 18, 2016 (7-9=16). In addition to his point streak, Tropp has six goals and three assists his past five games.
Kossila set a new single-game career high in points and assists (0-4=4), assisting on all four goals to set a new club record for assists in a game. He also tied the all-time franchise mark for points in a game. Kossila tied Andy Welinski and Brandon Montour for the most points in a game, and surpassed his previous career high of three points set three previous times this season. Kossila leads the Gulls in points (8-18=26) and assists in 19 games this season, and ranks second among AHL leaders with 1.37 points-per game (minimum 15 games).
Defenseman Andy Welinski, who was named as the Gulls representative for the AHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 28-29 in Utica, N.Y., has six assists his last six contests (0-6=6) and now ranks tied for second among AHL leaders in power play points (5-12=17) following a pair of power-play assists Wednesday at Texas.
Special teams have been a major part of San Diego’s success of late, where the Gulls have managed to win nine games since the start of December. The Gulls have scored 11 power-play goals the past seven games to improve to 25.9% on the man advantage to lead the AHL, with the club’s 38 leading all AHL teams. San Diego’s 25.3% mark and 19 goals at home are second among Western Conference clubs and third in the AHL. San Diego’s penalty kill has improved vastly of late, erasing the last 10 penalties and killed 29 of the last 32 penalties against (90.6%).
In net for the Gulls, Reto Berra (6-4-0) has won five of his last six road contests (5-1-0) with a 2.49 GAA and .917 SV% but has yet to win a contest at Valley View Casino Center (0-2-0) in three appearances. Kevin Boyle (9-6-1) has won each of his last four appearances (4-0-0) stopping 107-of-115 shots for a .930 SV%
All-time, the Gulls are 13-6-2-1 vs. the Barracuda, and Corey Tropp paces San Diego skaters with 4-6=10 points in 12 career games vs. San Jose, while Nic Kerdiles leads the club with seven goals (7-2=9) in 16 career contests.
Entering tonight San Jose sits one spot above the Gulls in the Pacific Division with a .552 win percentage, .002 percent more than the Gulls despite San Diego having one more standings point (San Jose has one fewer game played). In their last 10 games, 6-3-0-1.
San Jose rookie left wing Rudolfs Balcers leads the Barracuda in points, goals, assists, and power play goals (4), having scored 23 points (7G/16A) in 29 games this season, and enters tonight with a three-game point streak (1G/2A). The 20-year old native of Latvia was selected in the fifth round (142nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft is in his first professional season after finishing his lone junior season in 2016-17 with Kamloops where he led all Western Hockey League (WHL) rookies with 40 goals. Goaltender Antoine Bibeua (8-7-0) is in his fourth professional season, and first within the Sharks organization. He has posted a 2.37 GAA and a .916 SV% in 23 games this season. He currently ranks tied for first in the AHL in shutouts (2) and eighth in GAA. Yesterday, Bibeua was named to the AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino and will join Gulls defenseman Andy Welinski.
All fans in attendance will receive a Gulls fleece blanket courtesy of Southern California Honda Dealers, and tonight is also a $2 Bud Light night.