Feb. 5, 2018
The Gulls (23-17-1-0, 47 pts, .573 win %) wrap up a brief two-game homestand tonight when they take on the Central Division’s Iowa Wild at Valley View Casino (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM). San Diego has won three straight contests and 16 of the past 22 (16-6-0-0) coming into tonight, including a 4-1 victory over rival Tucson this past Saturday. Corey Tropp enters tonight one goal shy of setting the all-time franchise record for goals to pass Antoine Laganiere (37) after he passed Brandon Montour’s all-time club scoring record (37-53=90) his last time on the ice.
“Every night, heart and soul,” said Eakins when asked about Tropp’s play following Saturday’s contest. “The one guy that every night is in those really dirty areas that hurts to go there, and he’s just been excellent here for us especially over the last little bit. He is just a guy that comes and understands that every game and every shift is a critical one.”
Tropp passed Montour’s record for points in just two fewer games than the current Ducks defenseman earned his 37 goals in 102 games with San Diego were scored in 19 less than the former left wing Laganiere.
One of the keys to San Diego’s recent success has been their improved penalty kill and goaltending. Entering tonight, the Gulls have killed 20 of their last 21 penalties against (95.2%) the last six games and 44 of the last 49 against (89.8%) the past 13 games. Combined with their league-leading power play which checks-in at 24.9%, San Diego special teams have helped propel them towards the top of the Pacific Division as they look to climb closer towards the postseason tonight.
Kevin Boyle (12-8-1) is coming off his second consecutive win after making 25 stops against Tucson on Saturday. Expected to start his third consecutive game, Boyle has posted a 7-2-0 record with a 2.19 goals-against average (GAA) and .934 save percentage (SV%) his last nine appearances. Boyle is also 7-2-0 his last nine home appearances where he has recorded a 1.93 GAA and .942 SV%.
Iowa enters tonight’s matchup with a 22-14-7-3 mark (54 pts, .587 win %) and currently sit in third place in the tightly-contested Central Division. The Wild are on the final leg of a three-game swing through California where they routed Bakersfield last Friday (8-0) before falling a night later to Ontario (5-1).
San Diego is 3-0-0-0 all-time against Iowa having beaten them twice within a one month span in January 2017, including a 5-1 victory last season on Valentine’s Day during the Wild’s lone appearance to Valley View Casino Center. This year San Diego stormed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to win 4-3 in overtime at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines back on Dec. 9. That matchup featured two goals from Eric Fehr and an overtime winner from Ryan White, his first goal as a Gull. Of note, the Gulls have also won eight of their last nine contests against Central Division opponents, and all-time have a 12-6-1-0 mark all-time vs. the Central Division.
Iowa is led in scoring by center Cal O’Reilly who has recorded 38 points (8G/30A) in 45 games this season with his 30 assists ranked sixth among AHL leaders. O’Reilly, a fifth round selection (150th overall) by the Nashville Predators of the 2005 NHL Draft has piled up 488 points (97G/391A) in his distinguished 570 game AHL career. He has also collected 49 points (16G/33A) in 145 NHL games with Nashville, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Minnesota. Second in scoring for the Wild is right wing Sam Anas who has recorded 37 points (16G/21A) in 40 games in his second season in the AHL.
Goaltenders Niklas Svedberg and Steve Michalek split the netminding duties for the Wild. Svedberg (12-8-3) leads the Wild in appearances (23) and wins with a 2.56 GAA and .917 SV%. He has seen time in the NHL with the Boston Bruins after spending the majority of his career with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. Michalek (9-4-4) was a sixth round selection (161st overall) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2011 NHL Draft. He has had a strong start to the season, helping his team earn points in 13 of 17 appearances following his recall from Rapid City, Iowa’s primary affiliate in the ECHL.