Nov. 22, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. – For the first time in Gulls history, San Diego fell on the road at Tucson tonight in a 5-0 shutout loss to the Roadrunners. Coming into the game with a 7-0 all-time at Tucson Arena, the Gulls finally were tripped up by the opponent they have had their most success against (13-1-0-1) overall coming into tonight) as Tucson (9-2-2-1, 21 pts.) continues to lead the Western Conference.

Arizona Coyotes first round selection Dylan Strome (30th overall in 2015) earned his second career four-point game (2-2=4) to lead the Roadrunners. Goaltender Adin Hill (3-2-1-1) stopped all 29 Gulls shots to earn his second shutout of the season.

“I think we took two steps forwards and one step back,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. I think we learned a great lesson tonight. We can’t chase the game like that.”

“We have to stay out of the penalty box. Our penalty kill is hurting right now and the best way to kill penalties is to not take any. As much as I thought we took a good couple of steps forward, tonight’s a good kick in the rear end and a reminder we’re going to have to play one way and one way only if we’re going to win hockey games.”

A slow start for San Diego and an early deficit proved to be too much to overcome as the Gulls (7-8-1-0, 15 pts.) dropped immaculate record in Tucson came to an end.

A sluggish first period for the Gulls saw Tucson outshoot San Diego by a 14-4 margin and jump out to a 2-0 lead. Nick Merkley opened the scoring at the 9:43 mark after he finished off a Strome rush up ice.
Gulls netminder Kevin Boyle (5-5-1-0) made the initial stop but Merkley was able to bat the puck home through the scrum. Strome wasn’t finished tormenting the Gulls, as a few minutes later he found space in the left circle on the power play and pinpointed a wrist shot over the shoulder of Boyle at 15:31.

Tucson’s Kyle Wood extended the lead to 3-0 in the second period after the 2016-17 All-Star defenseman finished off a strong feed from Michael Latta at the 7:24 mark. The best opportunity for San Diego came late in the period as the Gulls had a prolonged five-on-three advantage. To their dismay, they couldn’t solve Hill who was helped out by the goal post, which was struck by both Giovanni Fiore and Spencer Abbott to the power play.

In the final period Strome was at it again less than two minutes into the frame when he broke free at the red line and tucked a backhand through Boyle’s legs to finish off a breakaway. Winger Mike Sislo blasted home a slapshot from the top of the right circle on a five-on-three power play to close out the scoring at the 10:04 mark.

Strome added an assist on the goal to run his point total on the night. Strome has earned seven points (3G/4A) in just three games this season against the Gulls. Strome lead the AHL with 1.69 points per game and now ranks second among AHL leaders with 22 points (6G/16A) this season.

“They’re doing it right with him. There’s a kid that needs to get his feet wet in pro hockey to be set up for success instead of trying to find his way through a very tough NHL,” added Eakins when asked about Strome. “He’s here developing here in the AHL like so many great players have done, and he’s playing extremely well.”

A late flurry of shots by San Diego proved fruitless with Hill gobbling up all attempts headed in direction to nail down the shutout.

The Gulls will look to get back in the win column on Friday night against the Bakersfield Condors at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM).