May 5, 2017

The Gulls (3-2) open their Second Round series vs. the San Jose Barracuda (3-2) tonight at SAP Center (7 p.m.; Mighty 1090-AM).

The top two teams in the Pacific Division face off in this best-of-seven Pacific Division Finals. The Gulls advanced to the Second Round after defeating rival Ontario in five games, 3-2, in a tightly contested Pacific Division Semifinals. On the other end of the ice, the Barracuda dispatched the Stockton Heat, 3-2, in their five-game series.

Pacific Division champion San Jose earned home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs with a 43-16-4-5 record and 95 points this season, the highest win percentage (.699) in the Western Conference and second-highest in the American Hockey League (AHL). The Gulls completed the regular season with a 43-20-3-2 record and 91 points, good for second in the division and the third-highest win percentage (.669) in the AHL.

“Playing San Jose is always a big test,” said defenseman Jaycob Megna. “They are a deep team that can cause a lot of problems for us if we aren’t on our toes. I think their record all year long speaks to that.”

San Diego posted a 5-4-1-0 record against the Barracuda in a 10-game season series that saw each team win their respective five home games. San Diego outscored San Jose 24-10 at Valley View Casino Center, while San Jose outscored the Gulls 15-4 at SAP Center. The Gulls went a perfect (5-0-0-0) on home ice, while they only earned one point (0-4-1-0) on the road.

“The whole season series was pretty even,” said Kalle Kossila. “Both teams won their games on home ice and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

All-time, the Gulls are 13-6-2-1 vs. the Barracuda, including 8-2-1-1 at home and 5-5-1-0 on the road. In regular season scoring, Corey Tropp paced San Diego skaters with 4-6=10 points in 12 career games vs. San Jose, while Nic Kerdiles led the club seven goals in 16 contests.

Expect this series to be defensive minded as San Jose finished second (176) and San Diego third (178) respectively in the entire AHL in goals against this season. Goaltenders Jhonas Enroth (San Diego) and Troy Grosenick (San Jose) were two of the top goaltenders among AHL leaders this season.

“Defensive play and goaltending are going to be important in this series,” said defenseman Nate Guenin. “They are always important, but even more so against a great team like San Jose. We have to make smart decisions with the puck and hopefully get some big saves from our goalies.”

Prior to the start of the Second Round series, the Gulls won six of their last eight games (3-0-0-0 regular season, 3-2 playoffs), finishing the regular season on a three-game win streak and defeating the Ontario Reign in five games in the First Round. The Gulls have also posted an 18-8-1-0 mark in the last 27 games overall (16-7-1-0 regular season, 3-2 playoffs) and a 35-11-1-1 mark the last 48 games (33-10-1-1 regular season, 3-2 playoffs).

On the road, San Diego won 14 of the last 22 games away from home (13-6-1-0 regular season, 1-1 playoffs) and 18 of 27 road contests (17-6-1-1, 1-1 playoffs). At Valley View Casino Center, San Diego’s has won 11 of its last 14 games (9-2-0-0, 2-1 playoffs) and posted a 17-4-0-0 record at home dating back to Jan. 7 (15-3-0-0 regular season, 2-1 playoffs).

“We played these guys 10 times this season,” said defenseman Brian Cooper. “The teams know each other very well so there will be no surprises. We know how we have to play to beat them. It’s just going to come down to executing our game plan and wanting it more.”