Dec. 31, 2017

It wasn’t the finish they wanted tonight but 2017 remained a success for the San Diego Gulls.

David Warsofsky scored the game-winning goal with 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the San Antonio Rampage to a 2-1 comeback win over the San Diego Gulls (15-13-1-0, 31 pts., .534 win %) at AT&T Center. San Antonio’s Chris Butler tied the game at 18:28 of the third period and Warsofsky’s goals helped the Rampage to their first-ever victory over San Diego on home ice.

San Diego completes the calendar year with wins in five of the past seven games (5-2-0-0) and eight of the last 11 (8-3-0-0). San Diego completed the 2017 calendar year with a 45-22-2-1 record (.664%). The Gulls completed their December schedule with an 8-3-0-0 record, the first winning record in the final month of the year and the most wins in the month of December all-time. The eight wins are double the amount of wins combined from December 2015 (4-5-0-0) and 2016 (4-6-1-1).

Corey Tropp scored San Diego’s lone goal at 17:33 of the first period as he opened the scoring for the Gulls to set a new personal career high with points in eight consecutive games (5-6=11). Tropp surpassed his previous career high seven-game point streak set on two occasions last season: Feb. 24-Mar. 10, 2017 (6-6=12) and Nov. 5-27, 2016 (3-7=10). Tropp is now one game shy of matching the all-time Gulls record of points in nine straight games set by Nic Kerdiles from Feb. 26-Mar. 18, 2016 (7-9=16).

After Tropp’s first period goal gave San Diego the lead for most of the afternoon, a late rally by the Rampage not only spoiled Reto Berra’s (5-4-0) shutout bid but also earned the home squad two goals in the game’s final 92 seconds. Warsofsky’s game-winner was the latest regulation goal allowed in Gulls franchise history. The loss for San Diego was just their second in 12 games against San Antonio (19-12-2-0, 40 pts., .606 win %) and their first ever defeat at AT&T Center.

The game, which ended in such demoralizing fashion for the visitors started with promise. After killing a couple of penalties early in the contest, the Gulls offense went to work. Tropp took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that found the back of the net at 17:33 after a screen developed in front of San Antonio netminder Ville Husso (7-4-0). Tropp, who normally makes his living in front of the opposing net added a new wrinkle in to his talented repertoire with the long-range blast.

The two European goaltenders, Berra, a native of Bulach, Switzerland and Husso, a native of Finland, dominated the second period as they turned aside a combined 15 shots on net with a handful of dazzling saves to boot.

“Their goalie played well,” said Gulls Head Coach Dallas Eakins of Husso. “We made some plays on the weak side of the net that just bobbled over our stick a couple of times. On most nights they are in the back of the net.”

The goaltending duel spilled over into the third period and into regulation’s dying minutes. With Husso pulled for the extra attacker, Rampage defenseman Chris Butler pinched into the offensive zone and took a beautiful cross-ice pass from A.J. Greer and scored the equalizer for San Antonio with 92 seconds remaining.

With the contest seemingly headed for overtime, the Gulls would lose a faceoff in their own zone and Warsofsky would unleash a blast from the top of the right circle to beat a screened Berra with just 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation time. The latest regulation goal allowed in San Diego history would seal a heartbreaking 2-1 loss. However, Eakins thought it was more bad luck that doomed them as opposed to poor play late.

“It was a lucky sequence of events,” said Eakins. “They had tied the game late on a blind pass, so they were fortunate there. Then we had a hell of block. (Dennis) Rasmussen got in a lane, blocked a shot and the puck went right back to the defenseman’s stick and he wired it. You are helpless, there is 0.2 seconds in the game and it’s over.”

Further, the San Diego coach believes the game, despite the outcome, is one to build on for the Gulls.

“I was talking to our staff afterwards. If we play that way each and every night we are going to win a whole lot of hockey games,” added Eakins. “I’m extremely happy with our effort, with our execution. I thought we should have been up four or five to one after two periods. It’s one of those nights. But hey, two games in one and a half days, playing against a team that was waiting for us. Playing that way, we like a lot of what happened tonight.”

Sam Carrick picked up his 13th assist of the season and Keaton Thompson tallied his fourth helper in 28 games. Dennis Rasmussen appeared in his 100th career AHL game.

San Diego will commence its 2018 calendar year with the final game of the three-game trek on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at Texas (5:30 p.m. PT).

Three Stars:
1. D. Warsofsky (SA)
2. C. Butler (SA)
3. V. Husso (SA)