Dec. 30, 2017

CEDAR PARK, Texas – Eric Fehr recorded his first three point game as a Gull (2G/1A), Kalle Kossila recorded a career high three-point game (1G/2A) for the third time of the season and goaltender Kevin Boyle (9-6-1) turned aside 33 Texas shots as the Gulls prevailed by a final score of 6-3. The Gulls (15-12-1-0, 31 pts.) saw 11 different skaters record at least a point as they won for the third consecutive game on the road and improved to 6-1-0-0 in their last seven games and 8-2-0-0 their last 10 to gain ground on a Pacific Division foe.

“That was nice for us to come back with a full effort,” said Fehr after the game. “I thought we had a full game from everybody. We weren’t happy with the way we came back from Christmas break but guys really responded tonight. We are looking forward to the rest of the road trip here.”

After a quiet first 12 minutes, Gulls forward Nic Kerdiles used his speed to rush up left wing and draw a hooking penalty. On the ensuing power play, Andy Welinski’s point blast into traffic was redirected by the backhand pass of Corey Tropp to a waiting Kossila who slammed it home for his eighth goal of the season at 13:24, extending his season-high point streak to seven games (4-8=12). The 34th power play marker of the season for the AHL’s top power play unit was the only goal in a period in which San Diego outshot Texas 11-6 and controlled most of the play.

“We have the right guys in the right spots,” said Kossila of the power play unit. “It’s easy to play with everybody.”

San Diego got into penalty trouble of their own in the second period. After defenseman Marcus Pettersson was whistled for hooking, the Stars attack finally broke through against Boyle who would stop 16-of-17 shots in the period. Texas right wing Denis Gurianov was able to jam a rebound past an outstretched Boyle to tie the game at one goal apiece at 15:30.

Just 45 seconds after the Gurianov marker, Jacob Larsson, a selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round 27th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft would unleash a rocket from the right point to cause havoc for Texas. The shot was blocked, but Fehr had established a net-front presence and was able to corral the rebound and skillfully curled the puck from his forehand to his backhand to slide the puck past Stars netminder Landon Bow (11-7-2) for his eighth goal of the campaign. The marker put the Gulls back in front 2-1, late in the period.

The third period got off to a thrilling start as Gulls defenseman Keaton Thompson dropped the gloves with Mark McNeill as he avenged a rough hit he took during the previous period. The scrap energized the Gulls who would score shortly after at the 1:24 mark. Welinski would hold in a failed Texas clear at the blue line and find Kossila whose smooth backhand pass found Kerdiles wide open in the slot. Kerdiles didn’t miss, firing a shot over Bow’s blocker into a gaping net to double San Diego’s lead to 3-1.

Puck luck would fall the Stars way just 23 seconds later when Boyle fumbled the rebound on a routine shot. Boyle swatted the puck to an oncoming Sheldon Dries who deposited the puck into an empty net with the netminder sprawling.

The situation seemed as if it could worsen a few minutes when they were forced to kill off a five-on-three man advantage with Brian Cooper and Eric Fehr in the box. The Gulls penalty killers were up to the task on a night when they were successful on muzzling six out of seven Texas power plays. After getting a power play of their own, San Diego converted once again to regain their two goal lead. Dennis Rasmussen drew the call on a mini-breakaway. Kossila found Tropp at the goal line who worked a bump-set with Fehr who in turn roofed it home at 10:37 for his second of the night and team-leading ninth goal of the season. The goal gave Fehr his third multi-goal game of the season and six goals his last seven games (6-3=9).

On a night when experience dominated, the all-rookie line joined the fun a little over two minutes later when Deven Sideroff scored his fourth marker of the season to give the Gulls their largest lead of the night at 5-2. Fellow rookies Giovanni Fiore and Julius Nattinen were part of a textbook passing sequence that found the back of the net at 12:50.

Rasmussen sealed the game when he scored an empty-netter to finish off his San Diego debut in style. Tommy Thompson potted a rebound home for Texas with 1:03 left to provide some window-dressing for the home squad and complete the scoring at 6-3 in favor of the white-clad visitors from southern California. The contest gave the Gulls a glimpse of what might be possible now that the team has a healthy lineup.

“The sky is the limit with this group for sure,” added Fehr. “It’s very exciting with the guys we have here. We just have to try and get better every day and get a little chemistry, I think once you see these players playing with a little bit of chemistry together we can do a lot of damage.”

The Gulls return to action tomorrow afternoon to close out 2017 when they travel south from Cedar Park to the Alamo City when they take on the San Antonio Rampage at AT&T Center. (1 p.m. PT, ESPN 1700-AM).

Three Stars
1. E. Fehr (SD)
2. S. Dries (TEX)
3. K. Kossila (SD)