Jan. 3, 2018
CEDAR PARK, Texas – Corey Tropp scored three times for the first time in his AHL career in a stretch of just 3:32 in the second period to record the second hat trick in Gulls history and the first natural hat trick as the Gulls defeated the Texas Stars at H-E-B Center. Kalle Kossila recorded the first four-point game of his career with four assists and San Diego (16-13-1-0, 33 pts., .550 win %) connected on three-of-four power play opportunities as the league-leading unit improved to a 25.9% success rate with 38 goals on the season.
Tropp’s natural hat trick of three power-play goals came in at 7:39, 8:15 and 11:11 of the second period, and his goals extended his point streak to tie the all-time club record for points in consecutive games. Now at a career high nine games (8-6=14), his point streak matches the nine-game point streak set by Nic Kerdiles from Feb. 26-Mar. 18, 2016 (7-9=16).
Austin Fyten opened the scoring at 7:50 of the first period for Texas (18-13-3-1, 40 pts., .571 win %) when he slipped unnoticed behind the Gulls defense and received a pass from Samuel Laberge in the low slot before wristing one past Reto Berra (6-4-0).
The Gulls wouldn’t trail for long, however. San Diego’s dynamic first line went to work and responded quickly. Kossila, looking to get back on the scoresheet after his seven-game point streak came to an end on Sunday, stole a Texas breakout pass before finding Nic Kerdiles in the left circle. Kerdiles quickly slid the puck over to Tropp but the puck never arrived. Instead, the puck banked in off a Texas skate and past Mike McKenna (7-6-2) to tie the game, 1-1, at 9:25 of the opening period.
Just as it appeared it that puck luck was on the side of San Diego, it flipped against them. Stars defenseman Gavin Bayreuther took a slap shot from just inside the blue that missed the net and ricocheted off the back dasher. As Berra was sliding back into his net, the puck caromed in, restoring the Texas lead with just over two minutes left in the period. Veteran Travis Morin picked up an assist on the goal, his 501st AHL point, and 500th as a member of the Texas Stars.
San Diego would draw even once again at 7:39 of the second period with the help of their league-leading power play. Defenseman Andy Welinski launched a slapper that was initially saved by McKenna before Tropp shoveled the rebound past him to make it 2-2.
The Gulls would strike again on the power play just 36 seconds later to give the visitors their first lead of the night at 3-2. Kossila would take a shot from the left point that generated another rebound, and again Tropp was there to knock it home from nearly the same spot as his first
“Most games you are going to find the most success with dirty goals. It’s a tough league. Every once in a while you are going to have a tic-tac-toe play, but you can’t bank on those every night,” said Tropp. “This Texas team is a really good hockey team. They have got good players. They are going to do their job and make it difficult and you have got to find ways to get pucks to the net to score those dirty goals.”
The duo would do it one more time on yet another power play opportunity. Kossila found Tropp in the low slot who completed the hat trick, a natural hat trick at that, to double San Diego’s lead to 4-2 at 11:11. The hat trick was just the second in Gulls history (also Welinski on March 31, 2017 at Tucson) and the first natural hat trick in club history. Kossila’s first career four point came courtesy of four helpers, the first time in club history. His four-point performance was just the fourth in Gulls history, tying Andy Welinski (3-1=4, Mar. 31, 2017 @ TUC) and Brandon Montour (1-3=4, Dec. 26, 2016 vs. TUC; 2-2=4, Nov. 11, 2015 vs. BAK) for the most points in a game, and the first forward to do so.
Welinski’s two power-play assists give him 12 on the season, good for second among AHL leaders in power-play points (5-12=17) despite playing missing six games due to an NHL call-up with the Anaheim Ducks.
“Simple plays, getting into the zone, making one or two passes, getting to the net,” said Kossila after the game when asked about the power play. “Tropp and Fehr are unbelievable in front of the net. Get the puck to those two guys and it will go in.”
Texas pulled back within one in the first minute of the third period when Andrew Bodnarchuk found Curtis McKenzie with an open net after Berra anticipated playing a puck behind his net that was instead intercepted. Learning from their mistakes in San Antonio on Sunday, this time San Diego held on to their one-game lead late, including a 6-on-4 opportunity for Texas following a tripping call on Joseph Blandisi in the final minute.
The Gulls open a four-game homestand against the San Jose Barracuda on Friday, Jan. 5 at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m.). All fans in attendance on Friday will receive a free Gulls blanket while supplies last.
“Every game is big but especially now,” Kossila added. The teams are ahead of us so there are big games coming up.”
1. C. Tropp (SD)
2. C. Markison (TEX)
3. N. Kerdiles (SD)