Apr. 14, 2018

The San Diego Gulls fell 6-3 to the Tucson Roadrunners to conclude their 2017-18 season. With the defeat, the Gulls were eliminated from clinching a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs. San Jose defeated Stockton in regulation tonight to tie the Gulls with 76 points but clinch a postseason berth on the first tiebreaker scenario with 33 regulation or overtime win compared to San Diego’s 32.

Kalle Kossila’s two goals brought the Gulls within one in the third period but the Gulls frantic third-period comeback fell short as the club will miss the postseason for the first time in three years.

“It seemed like everything was against us. I think they had no shots on net until eight minutes left. I thought we had a great start, I thought we had a great third period with the amount of chances we had, but it wasn’t enough,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “This is going to be one that I know is going to stick with me a long time. I cannot remember being this gutted, this disappointed in a very long time. To go through 68 games and to need one point, and you’re going to think of those inches, those things that happened not only these last three games but the previous 65 before that. That’s why we preach every moment is critical, every day is a critical day. This one hurts.”

The Gulls put pressure on Tucson early with Kossila hitting the crook of the bar on a quick rush and during a power play at the midway point of the first period San Diego thought it had scored.

The review occurred at 11:51 of the period following a stoppage after a point shot from Brian Cooper appeared to have rung the cross bar. Nic Kerdiles and Kiefer Sherwood raised his arms in celebration thinking the puck had crossed the goal line. Referees Ben O’Quinn and Troy Paterson ruled that the puck did not cross the goal line therefore the game remained scoreless just shy of 12 minutes in.

Moments later on the power play, Lawson Crouse tipped a Dylan Strome point shot for his 15th goal of the season at 13:20 of the opening frame. The goal came following a Kevin Roy penalty where he lost an edge behind the Tucson goal and tripped Trevor Murphy behind the net, while the opening marker of the game came on Tucson’s first shot of the game.

With 5.8 seconds remaining in the first period, Michael Bunting one-timed a Zac Larraza backhand pass from behind the net to increase the lead to 2-0. At the end of 20 minutes the Gulls trailed by two and in shots, 6-5.

Two minutes into the second period Tucson extended their lead to 3-0 off Tie McGinn’s goal. Murphy and Gross earned the assists, with the latter earning his first professional point.

The Gulls would pull one back when Nic Kerdiles tied a career high with his 15th goal of the season at 10:41 of the second period to match the 15 he scored in 2015-16 with San Diego. Jacob Larsson’s point shot was tipped in front by Kerdiles as the Gulls trailed 3-1 halfway through the contest.

With a chance to cut into the lead further, the Gulls drew two quick penalties for a 5-on-3 man advantage for 88 seconds with 7:44 remaining in the middle period. The first penalty was killed despite continued pressure and Miska made two strong saves in the final 40=plus seconds to kill both penalties.

After 40 minutes the Roadrunners led 3-1 despite San Diego outshooting Tucson by a 15-13 margin.

Kossila brought the Gulls within one at 4:27 of the third period on a quick rush and flipped the puck over Miska for his 20th goal of the season to make it a 3-2 game with more than 15 minutes in regulation.

The Roadunners regained a two-goal lead at 11:16 following a 2-on-1 rush as Trevor Cheek’s pass to Michael Bunting caromed off of Keaton Thompson and slid into the Gulls net for a 4-2 deficit with under 10 minutes.

At 6:51 of the game Kalle Kossila slotted the puck home after it hit the post and laid in the crease, with the goal tying the franchise record for goals in a season.

Kossila scored moments later to bring it back to 4-3 with his 21st of the season to tie the club single-season record for goals. The 21 goals tied Corey Tropp and Antoine Laganiere’s 21 goals in 2016-17 as he joined those two and Chris Mueller (2015-16) as the only Gulls to score 20 goals in a season.

With 3:22 remaining former Gull Larraza again made it a two-goal game to extend Tucson’s lead to 5-3 as he skated down the left wing and snapped a shot to the far post. Trevor Cheek added an empty-net goal with 58.4 seconds to seal the victory and ultimately end San Diego’s season.

“They’re a good hockey team. Obviously we had our opportunities, we hit some posts, we had some good looks on some early power plays,” said Corey Tropp. “Sometimes that’s going to happen. We didn’t lose our season tonight, it happened a couple weeks ago, it’s no secret. It’s a learning experience for every single one of us in that room, especially our younger guys and even us older guys. Every single game matters. It’s probably the second-best league in the world if not right up there.”