Dec. 31, 2017
The Gulls (15-12-1-0, 31 pts., .554 win %) concludes the 2017 calendar year as they continue a three-game road trip in the state of Texas tonight against the San Antonio Rampage (18-12-2-0, 38 pts., .594 win %) at AT&T Center (1 p.m. PT, ESPN 1700-AM). The Gulls enter tonight’s contest with wins in six of the last seven contests (6-1-0-0) and eight of the last 10 games (8-2-0-0). The Gulls have also won three consecutive road contests and five of the past six (5-1-0-0) dating back to Dec. 1 at Ontario.
The Gulls defeated the Texas Stars in a 6-3 win last night at H-E-B Center. San Diego scored two power play goals (2-of-3) and have scored on the man advantage in 21-of-27 games this season to lead the league at 25.2% (35-of-139). Kalle Kossila scored a goal and added two assists, tying a career high of three points Kossila leads San Diego with 8-14=22 points in 17 games. With three points, Kossila extended his point streak to a season-high seven games (4-8=12) and his assist streak to four consecutive games (1-6=7). His point streak is one game shy of the career high eight-game point streak set last season from Dec. 29, 2016-Jan. 20, 2017 (4-8=12).
Eric Fehr scored his team-leading eighth and ninth goals of the season, and earned an assist for his first three-point game this season (2-1=3). Fehr has scored six goals his last seven games (6-3=9) and has seven goals in his last eight contests (7-4=11). Corey Tropp also had a multi-point game with two assists (0-2=2) for his fourth multi-point game of the season. The two points tied a career high for points in seven straight games (4-6=10) to match his previous high set on two occasions last season: Feb. 24-Mar. 10, 2017 (6-6=12) and Nov. 5-27, 2016 (3-7=10). Andy Welinski tallied two assists (0-2=2) as well for his fourth multi-point game of the season after being assigned to San Diego by the Anaheim Ducks earlier in the day. Kevin Boyle stopped 33-of-36 shots in his fourth consecutive victory to improve to 9-6-1 on the season.
“The sky is the limit with this group for sure. It’s very exciting with the guys we have here,” said Fehr following the victory last night over Texas. “We just have to try and get better every day and get a little chemistry. I think once you see these players playing with a little bit of chemistry together we can do a lot of damage.
The Gulls have also earned points in 17 of their last 19 road games outside the state of California dating back to Dec. 29, 2016 @ Texas (15-2-2-0). The Gulls are 8-2-0-0 in the month of December and continue a 41-day stretch that sees the Gulls play nine of 13 games on the road (8-3-0-0 to date), with only two games remaining on this trip before a four-game homestand in early January. Coming into tonight, Kalle Kossila has a season-high seven-game point streak (4-8=12) and Corey Tropp also has points in a career-tying high of seven games (4-5=9). Tonight concludes the ninth set of back-to-back matchups this season for San Diego. The Gulls are 8-7-1-0 overall and 5-3-0-0 in the second content.
The Gulls face off against the San Antonio Rampage for the second of four matchups this season and the final contest at AT&T Center. San Diego won the lone previous contest this season at AT&T Center, a 5-3 victory on Oct. 28. The Gulls have won three consecutive games and have a 10-1-0-0 record all-time vs. the Rampage, including a perfect 6-0-0-0 in San Antonio. The Gulls have outscored the Rampage 41-24 in the 11 all-time games. Tropp leads active San Diego skaters in goals, assists, points (3-4=7) and plus/minus (+8) rating in seven career games.
“I think he is the best guy I have seen in front of the net. That is why I love to give him the puck. He either takes it to the hoop or finds someone to pass to. He is great at that,” said Kossila when asked about Tropp’s play of late.
Added Fehr when asked the same question: “He’s a magician down on that goal line. He has a lot of trick plays up his sleeve and he seems to find the open guy a lot.”
San Antonio enters tonight third in the Pacific Division, wins in consecutive games and a 6-3-1-0 record their last 10 contests. Two nights ago the Rampage shut out Texas in a 1-0 overtime win on home ice with Southern California-native Rocco Grimaldi netting the game-winning goal. Grimaldi leads San Antonio with 12 goals in 23 games and is second with 19 points behind only Andrew Agozzino’s 22 points (8G/14A).
In a unique situation, the Rampage are the AHL affiliate of two National Hockey League (NHL)clubs, the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues due to the NHL consisting of 31 teams to the AHL’s 30. When these teams last met the Rampage boasted four first round selections on the roster, but today three of those players are elsewhere.
Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (25th overall in 2012, St. Louis) is plying his trade with the Blues, as is Tage Thompson (26th overall in 2016). The 31st selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, the first time a 31st overall pick was a first rounder in rookie forward Klim Kostin, is currently representing Russia at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. The only remaining first round selection is the Avalanche’s Duncan Siemens, a 6-3, 205-pound defenseman.
Spencer Martin (11-7-2) has received the yeoman’s share of work in net with 21 appearances with a 2.81 GAA and .902 SV%. Finnish rookie Ville Husso (6-4-0) is coming off the aforementioned shutout win two night’s ago and has won two of his last three starts to earn a 3-1-0 record with one shutout, a 2.12 GAA and .938 SV%.