Jan. 19, 2018
The Gulls (20-15-1-0, 41 pts., .569 win %) return home for a brief homestand as they open up a back-to-back set tonight against the San Jose Barracuda (17-16-0-2, 36 pts, .514 win %) at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). In the fourth meeting of the eight-game season series, San Jose visits San Diego where Valley View Casino Center has been a tough place to come away with points. The Gulls have won nine straight home games (9-0-0-0) dating back to Feb. 27, 2016 and have a 10-1-1-1 all-time at home against the Barracuda, the most consecutive home wins versus an opponent in club history.
The Gulls enter tonight following one of their most dramatic wins of the season. Rookie left wing Giovanni Fiore scored his first career hat trick and the second natural hat trick in Gulls history with three consecutive goals in the third period in a span of 7:33 (goals at 5:01, 7:07 and 12:28) to lead San Diego to a 5-3 comeback win over the Tucson Roadrunners at Tucson Convention Center Arena. San Diego trailed 3-0 at 9:35 of the second period but scored five consecutive goals to match the largest deficit overcome in a win in club history. The two previous deficits of three goals overcome were on Jan. 3, 2016 at San Antonio (trailed 3-0 at 4:17 of the third period to win 4-3) and Apr. 6, 2016 vs. Bakersfield (trailed 3-0 at 2:58 of second period and 5-2 of the second period at 15:52 to win 6-5 in OT). The comeback win marked the 10th of its kind for San Diego this season. Fiore’s hat trick was the third in Gulls history and his second career multi-goal game (also Dec. 1 at Ontario). His natural hat trick was the second in the past seven games (14 days) for San Diego (also Corey Tropp on Jan. 3 at Texas (3-0=3) in a span of 3:32 in the second period).
“We battled all along and it paid off,” said Fiore following his natural hat trick and the team’s comeback performance. “Sometimes it doesn’t always go your way. The hockey gods are always watching over you. You don’t get a bounce but then if you keep hacking at it, it will pay off eventually.”
Defenseman Jaycob Megna also recorded his first career three-assist game (0-3=3), tying a career high for points in a game set on two previous occasions: Dec. 16, 2016 vs. Stockton (1-2=3) and Dec. 26, 2016 vs. Tucson (1-2=3). Center Joe Blandisi also earned his first three-point game of the season with a goal and two assists (1-2=3). Blandisi extended his point streak to a season high three games (2-3=5) and has eight points his last six games (4-4=8). The Gulls received yet another strong performance from Berra who has now won four of his last five starts (4-1-0), while posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
These two clubs met two weeks ago in a back-to-back on Jan. 5-6 when the goalies stole the show for the Gulls. Reto Berra recorded a 46-save shutout in a 5-0 decision, setting the franchise record for saves and shots faced in a single game. His new record was matched just a night later when Kevin Boyle stopped 46-of-48 Barracuda shots in a 3-2 victory. All-time, the Gulls are 15-6-2-1 vs. the Barracuda, and right wing Corey Tropp paces San Diego skaters with 4-7=11 points in 14 career games vs. San Jose, while left wing Nic Kerdiles leads the club with seven goals (7-3=10) in 18 career contests.
Entering tonight San Jose is at the bottom of the Pacific Division despite being one game over the .500 mark. The Pacific Division is currently the toughest in all of the AHL, the only division in the league where all eight teams have recorded more wins than losses and sit with a win percentage over .500.
Tonight, all fans in attendance receive a Kalle Kossila bobblehead in celebration of the lacrosse-style goal he scored one year ago on Jan. 20, 2017 against this same San Jose Barracuda team. Saturday evening’s game against the Barracuda is Diversity Night (7 p.m.).