Nov. 22, 2017
The San Diego Gulls (7-7-1-0, 15 pts.) conclude a stretch of three consecutive games against the Tucson Roadrunners (8-8-2-1) with a quick one-game road trip at Tucson Arena tonight (6:05 p.m. PT, ESPN 1700-AM). San Diego has won consecutive games for the first time this season, defeating Tucson in a back-to-back matchup last weekend.
After a successful weekend back-to-back set that saw the Gulls get back on track and emerge victorious in both contests against the Roadrunners, San Diego looks to improve to 4-0 against Tucson tonight and notch their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Tucson’s loss on Friday snapped the team’s record-tying 10-game point streak, and was the Roadrunners’ first loss in regulation since the season opener on October 7. Despite the two losses, Tucson still sits atop the Western Conference and third among AHL clubs.
The Gulls enter tonight having earned points in 15 consecutive road games (13-0-2-0) outside the state of California dating back to Oct. 29, 2016 (5-4 loss @ Manitoba). The Gulls have not lost in regulation in a game outside of California in the U.S. since Jan. 23, 2016 at Texas (6-3 loss).
All-time, San Diego has earned a 13-1-0-1 record to collect points in 14 of the 15 matchups vs. the Roadrunners. The Gulls own a 6-1-0-1 record at home, while going a perfect 7-0 in Tucson, having outscored the Roadrunners 70-35 in the 15 games, averaging 4.67 goals per game.
Spencer Abbott enters tonight with a four-game point streak (3-4=7) dating back to Nov. 4. The veteran forward also has a six-game road point streak dating back to the final game of last season on April 14 at Ontario (2-8=10), with points in each of his five road games to date this season (2-6=8) which is tied for the longest road point streak in the AHL. The diminutive forward leads the team this season in assists (10), co-leads the club in points (5-10=15) and ranks second in goals, and has tallied more than a point per game since his acquisition from the Chicago Blackhawks organization Mar. 1 at the trade deadline (8-21=29 points in 27 games).
After beating Tucson on Opening Night back on Oct. 7, the Gulls tied a club-record with eight goals in an 8-3 win last Friday, Nov. 17 at Valley View Casino Center. San Diego followed up with another home victory a night later, this time a 3-2 shootout decision. All-time, San Diego comes into tonight with a 13-1-0-1 record and has collected points in 14 of the 15 matchups vs. the Roadrunners. In San Diego, the Gulls have a 6-1-0-1 record, but they are even better on the road in Tucson where they are a perfect 7-0.
“I think it’s playing our game. Focusing on what we do best,” said Gulls center Kalle Kossila. “Doing the little things. Faceoffs, forecheck, and sticking to the plan. I don’t think it’s about them, it’s about us.”
The Gulls will be building on individual successes against the Roadrunners as well. Corey Tropp leads all active Gulls skaters with 15 points (7-8=15) in just 11 games. Defenseman Andy Welinski has earned 14 points (6-8=14) in 14 career games in addition to a +6 rating. In fact, Welinski comes in co-leading the Gulls overall with 6 goals and 15 points. He ranks first among all AHL defenseman in goals and is second in points. Right wing Spencer Abbott co-leads the Gulls in scoring (5-10=15) this season along with Welinski (6-9=15). Goaltender Kevin Boyle has earned wins in all five career stars vs. Tucson (5-0-0) with a 2.56 GAA and .929 SV%.
The Roadrunners are led in scoring by their dynamic, playmaking center Dylan Strome. Strome, selected by the Arizona Coyotes in the first round (3rd overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has torched the AHL with 18 points (4-14=18) in only 12 games. In addition, he recorded three points (1G/2A) over the weekend in San Diego.
“I’m getting the opportunity here to produce, to be on a power play unit, a penalty kill unit and get a lot of minutes,” said Strome in an interview with the Roadrunners Tuesday. “I’m enjoying my time here, I’m enjoying the team winning, and I’m really working hard. We’re building a culture around here that’s based around the expectancy to win, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Strome’s 18 points are tied for the league lead in rookie scoring, and he has tallied eight points (3G/5A) the past four games.
Right wing Nick Merkley, also selected by Arizona in the first round (30th overall) in the 2015 draft, sits above a point per game currently (8-6=14) with 14 points in 13 games this season.
“They have a lot of skill for sure. You have to stay on top of them and be physical and not give them any space or room,” added Kossila when discussing the trio of Strome, Merkley and Lawson Crouse. “I think they’re best when they get odd-man rushes or power plays. Stay out of the box, that’s key.”
In net, the Gulls can expect to see one of the trio of netminders that suit up for Tucson: Hunter Miska, Adin Hill, or Marek Langhamer. Langhamer has been the strongest opposition they have faced so far, stopping 34-of-36 shots last Saturday in the 3-2 shootout loss.