Jan. 10, 2018

Sam Carrick and Kevin Roy scored second period goals, and Reto Berra made it stand with 30 saves as the Gulls held off the Chicago Wolves for a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night at Valley View Casino Center. A crowd of 6,948 saw the Gulls (19-13-1-0) win their fourth straight to snap Chicago’s 14-game standings point streak (12-0-1-1).

“That’s the best lineup we’ve seen from any team this year,” said head coach Dallas Eakins of the Wolves. “One of the hottest teams in the league this year, so we thought this would be a great measuring stick for us, and our guys really responded.”

The two hottest teams in the AHL met as the puck dropped in San Diego, with the Wolves having collected 26-of-28 points in their last 14 games, while the Gulls checked in with the second-best record during the same span, an 11-3-0 mark (22-of-28 points). With the win, San Diego has now captured 10 wins in their last 12 contests (10-2-0-0) and 12 of their last 15 (12-3-0-0).

A scoreless first period saw quality chances for both sides. Berra (8-4-0) was forced to stand tallest at the midpoint of the period on a delayed penalty call when he did not get the expected whistle on a poke check. Wade Megan was left alone to gather the puck in front of the net but Berra denied both his initial shot and rebound attempt at his near post. The Gulls out-shot the Wolves 9-7 and killed two penalties in the frame.

“I think it’s important to just stay in the moment and work hard,” said Berra. “I feel really good, but also the team is helping me a lot on a couple of rebounds. They were very strong in front of me.”

Chicago brought the spark to the ice to begin the second period, generating seven of the period’s first eight chances. Berra was asked twice to provide quality in net, and used a sharp glove each time to snatch away wrist shots from Tomas Hyka.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted, but we stuck to what has been working for us lately, weathered the storm and kept playing our game,” said Carrick.

San Diego’s breakthrough came with persistent net front work and simple offense at the game’s midway point. Brian Cooper’s blue line wrister was partially blocked, but deflected off his forward Jared Boll and to the waiting Sam Carrick outside left post. Carrick slammed home his second goal in as many games and eighth of the season, unlocking the scoreless duel at 9:58 of the second period.

After playing 25 games with the NHL Anaheim Ducks, Kevin Roy made his return to the Gulls lineup a memorable one, stealing a puck at his blue line and turning it into an unassisted goal at 16:37 of the second period for a 2-0 San Diego lead. Roy charged through right circle and attempted to cross a pass to Joe Blandisi, only to see the puck deflected through Lagace and into the net for his fifth goal of the AHL season. Roy scored 6-1=7 points during his NHL stint.

“Kevin’s worked really hard on his habits,” said Eakins. “You’re still seeing a really young player in his development.”

Leading 2-0 after 40 minutes, a red hot Gulls penalty kill was put to the test when San Diego was called for two minor penalties in 13 seconds midway through the third period. The Wolves were able to score on a 5-on-3 power play, with Stefan Matteau knocking a right wing shot which snuck under Berra’s pad and right post for a goal at 11:41, reducing the San Diego lead to 2-1. The goal ended Berra’s shutout streak of 130:46 and 77 consecutive saves.

The Gulls saw their streak of 21 consecutive penalties killed come to an end, though San Diego has killed off 41 of their last 45 penalties against (91.1%).

The Wolves’ furious finish saw Berra deny a Tomas Hyka left wing second chance rebound with a point blank save with just over a minute left to protect the victory, as the Gulls improved to 5-1-0 in their last six home games and a perfect 3-0 on the homestand.

“We’re healthy and the Ducks are healthy,” said Eakins of his newly fortified lineup. “We moved some guys in and out of the lineup and even without guys like (Corey) Tropp and (Ryan) White out tonight, we really played a gritty game. It really says a lot about how far some of our guys have developed, and how some other guys are continuing to lead and get better.”

The Gulls conclude their four-game homestand when they begin a three-game series against the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday, Jan. 13 at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m.). The Gulls will visit Tucson for two games next week on Jan. 15 and 17 before returning home to host San Jose for a weekend back-to-back on Nov. 19-20.

Three Stars:
1. Kevin Roy (SD)
2. Reto Berra (SD)
3. Sam Carrick (SD)