Dec. 30, 2017

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Gulls (14-12-1-0, 29 pts., .537 win %) begin a three-game road trip at the Texas Stars (18-11-3-1, 40 pts., .606 win %) tonight at H-E-B Center (5 p.m. PT, ESPN 1700-AM). The current road trip will continue through the state of Texas on Sunday, Dec. 31 at San Antonio (1 p.m. PT) and curiously end back here at H-E-B Center on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 (5:30 p.m. PT).

The Gulls enter tonight’s contest with wins in five of the last six contests (5-1-0-0) and seven of the last nine (7-2-0). The Gulls have also won two consecutive road contests and four of the past five (4-1-0-0) dating back to Dec. 1 at Ontario, in addition to points in 16 of their last 18 road games (14-2-2-0) outside the state of California dating back to Dec. 29, 2016 here at in Cedar Park. Tonight also marks the beginning of the ninth set of back-to-back matchups this season for San Diego. The Gulls are 8-7-1-0 overall and 3-4-1-0 in the first content.

The Tucson Roadrunners ended San Diego’s season-high five-game win streak with a 4-1 win Wednesday evening at Valley View Casino Center. San Diego’s five-game win streak was the longest such streak since six consecutive wins last season from Jan. 25-Feb. 7, 2017. Corey Tropp scored the lone goal for San Diego at 7:26 of the second period to extend his point streak to a season-high six games (4-4=7) and one shy of his career high of seven set on two previous occasions last season: Feb. 24-Mar. 10, 2017 (6-6=12) and Nov. 5-27, 2016 (3-7=10). Kalle Kossila earned an assist on Tropp’s goal to push his point streak to a season-high six games (3-6=9) and his assist streak to three consecutive games (1-5=6).

“We started slow and I think we were playing catch up after that. It’s tough to get back into a game when we weren’t really executing the way we have the last few games,” said Gulls defenseman Jaycob Megna on the loss to Tucson. “We have to give them credit and move on to get back to the way we play. We’re not happy with the effort. It’s something we can control.”

Something that has become a trend the first three seasons for the Gulls is this annual trip to the Lone Star State. For the third consecutive season since the implementation of the Pacific Division, San Diego will spend the New Year’s facing their divisional foes and have built strong second halves the first two seasons out of the holiday break.

In 2016-17, San Diego used two wins against these Stars, a 4-0 shutout win Dec. 29 and a 3-1 victory two night’s later to springboard themselves forward in the standings toward a playoff spot after San Diego sat 11 points behind then division leader Stockton, surpassing four teams (Stockton, Tucson, Ontario and Texas) to finish second in the division.

“Coming out of the Christmas break we’ve always had a good effort for the next couple weeks and we’ve been able to put together a string of wins so e’re hoping that getting on the road with the boys and getting these three games will help us jump start a little for the rest of the way.”

Despite that loss, the Gulls are 7-2-0-0 in the month of December and continue a 41-day stretch there the team play nine of 13 games on the road (7-10-0-0 to date) and finish that stretch on this road trip. Tonight’s game marks the fifth of six meetings this season between the two clubs, with San Diego posting a 6-7-1-0 all-time record against Texas, and 3-2-1-0 at H-E-B Center. The two teams split games on Oct. 14 and 15, with Texas taking the next two matchups in a 5-4 OT win on home ice Oct. 27 and then a 6-2 blowout in San Diego on Nov. 8.

Texas enters tonight on the heels of a 1-0 OT shutout loss last night at San Antonio. The Stars are 5-2-3-0 their last 10 games but have earned points in three straight games (1-0-2-0). Stars forward Curtis McKenzie has been a force against San Diego this season, earning seven points (4G/3A) in the four games, including a hat trick as part of a five-point game on Nov. 8. McKenzie leads the Stars with 14 goals on the season and ranks only behind veteran center Travis Morin who has tallied a 27 assists and 32 points, with his 27 helpers ranking second among AHL leaders.

Jason Dickinson will most likely miss tonight’s contests as he was just recalled by the Dallas Stars yesterday after collecting 16 points (13-3=16) this season for the AHL club, with his 13 goals are second on the team. The forward was originally selected by Dallas in the first round (29th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft and in a corresponding move Texas recalled forward Tommy Thompson from their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads

Gulls goaltender Reto Berra (5-3-0) has started the last two games for San Diego and has won his last four road contests (4-0-0) with a 2.48 GAA and .920 SV%. He has also posted a 5-1-0 record in six road starts this season. Kevin Boyle is 3-2-1 with one shutout, a 2.51 GAA and .912 SV% in six career games vs. Texas, including his first career shutout one year ago on Dec. 29, 2016 in this same building (4-0 win).

Center Dennis Rasmussen is expected to join the team this evening following after clearing waivers and being assigned by the Anaheim Ducks. Also joining the team on the road trip is forward Joseph Blandisi who was injured after crashing into the board on Dec. 22 vs. Ontario, in addition to defenseman Jacob Larsson who has missed the past nine games with a lower-body injury.