Dec. 13, 2017

SAN DIEGO – Mitch Hults’ power play goal with 4:11 remaining in regulation gave the San Diego Gulls their first lead of the night, and Sam Carrick’s empty netter sealed a 5-3 comeback victory over the Stockton Heat on Wednesday night at Valley View Casino Center. Carrick and Ryan White each record a goal with two assists, as the Gulls (11-11-1-0) won their second straight and fourth out of five games, returning to the .500 mark on the season.

San Diego erased a third period deficit for the second consecutive game with three unanswered goals in the final period to mark the fifth comeback win of the season for San Diego, and the third when trailing after two periods.

“I thought our players held the line,” said San Diego head coach Dallas Eakins. “There was a lot of physicality in the game, there was a lot of verbal interaction between the two benches, and I was proud of our guys the way they held the line.”

The spirited battle saw 115 combined penalty minutes, including 68 for the visiting Heat (14-7-0-2). The game’s final 30 seconds saw Stockton’s Oleg Yevenko handed a game misconduct for instigating a fight after chasing down Gulls right wing Scott Sabourin, and Luke Gazdic was given a cross-checking penalty and roughing minor at the game’s final horn.

“When things escalated there, we answered the bell,” said Carrick. “I think that kind of brings our group together a little bit, when guys stick up for each other and get the energy going.”

Hults’ go-ahead goal came courtesy of the continued efforts of White, who earned top star on the evening. Injured on the power play, White was on one knee inside right circle trying to stand up, but had the presence of mind to spot a loose puck off Giovanni Fiore’s stick and deflect it one-handed back toward the crease where Hults was able to knock home his fifth goal of the season.

A wide-open first period saw high speed, open ice, and quality chances for both sides from the opening minute onward. The Heat took advantage of speed through neutral ice from Marek Hrivik, who entered the zone before feeding back to the trailing Oliver Kylington. The Heat defenseman wristed home his second goal of the year at 1:28 for a 1-0 lead. It was Stockton’s 18th first goal in 23 games this season.

The Gulls answered minutes later with a spirited forecheck from Carrick, who stole a puck in the Stockton corner and spotting White in the slot. The pass kicked off White’s right skate to his forehand and he beat Jon Gillies with a low shot for his second goal in as many games, evening the contest 1-1 at 7:02.

“We’re a confident group right now,” said Carrick. “To get a win like that, it was just a great character win by our team. Our power play stepped up, our (penalty kill) was good, and it was a fun game.”

During 4-on-4acti on at the mid-point of the first period, the Heat again utilized a speed rush and a drop pass to a drifting defenseman. This time it was Morgan Klimchuk slotting a pass from center blue to left wing, where Rasmus Andersson toe dragged before beating Reto Berra glove side high at 10:49 for a 2-1 advantage.

San Diego attacked early and often in a high energy second period that saw the Gulls out-shoot the Heat 15-7. The lone goal of the frame came on the Gulls power play, with Keaton Thompson wristing home his third goal of the season. The play was initiated by White’s forecheck and net-front presence, winning a loose puck before finding Carrick at the blue line who set up Thompson’s equalizer.

“I thought we came out firing in the second period,” said Gulls goaltender Kevin Boyle (6-6-1), who stopped 16-of-17 shots faced over the final two periods after coming on in relief of starting net-minder Reto Berra (illness). “We could tell it was going to be a chippy game but we had some good momentum from the past couple of games, and it was nice to keep it going.”

The Gulls took a pair of minor penalties in the final two minutes of the second period, giving the Heat a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:10 to start the third stanza. Marek Hrivik would convert the two-man advantage goal for Stockton, pounding home a back post feed from near the end line for his eighth goal of the season at 1:08.

The power play is where San Diego would begin their comeback, when the Gulls evened tie at 4:16 of the third, with elbow grease earning principal assist. After a shot through traffic by Gulls center Kalle Kossila, Heat goalie Jon Gillies thought he had the puck trapped for a faceoff. Nic Kerdiles, playing his first game for the Gulls since Oct. 25, forced the puck loose with extra effort, dribbling toward the goal line for Tropp to slam home for his first goal of the season.

Hults’ go-ahead goal gave San Diego the 4-3 lead with 4:11 remaining, and Carrick’s empty netter at 18:52 sealed the win for San Diego, their first regulation win in five tries against the Heat this season.

The Gulls continue their three-game homestand with a Saturday night rematch against Stockton in the third annual Teddy Bear Toss at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM).

Three Stars:
1. Ryan White (SD)
2. Sam Carrick (SD)
3. Mitch Hults (SD)