March 15, 2017
The Gulls (35-15-3-2, 75 pts.) earned its seventh win in the last nine games (7-1-1-0) in a 3-2 win over the Stockton Heat (26-24-4-1; 57 pts.) in front of 5,567 fans at Valley View Casino Center on Wednesday night. Corey Tropp scored two goals (2-0=2), including his 20th of the season, and notched his team-leading 15th multi-point game of the season and netminder Dustin Tokarski (14-6-1-1) made 36 saves as San Diego won its sixth consecutive game on home ice.
With his 20th goal of the season, Tropp matched the club record for goals scored in a season, tying Chris Mueller’s 20 goals from last season. Tropp also became the third player in franchise history to record 50 points in a season, joining Mueller (20-37=57) and Brandon Montour (12-45=57).
The six straight home wins match a club record set on three previous occasions: Jan. 7-Feb. 14, 2017, Nov. 11-Dec. 6, 2016 and Oct. 10, 2015-Nov. 11, 2015.
“That game had a bit of a playoff atmosphere to it,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “There were two evenly-matched teams out there and I think the score shows that.”
The Gulls have won 11 of the last 14 games (11-2-1-0), 17 of their last 21 (17-3-1) and 24 of the last 30 overall (24-3-1-1). San Diego has also earned standings points in 24 of the last 27 games (22-3-1-1), as well as points in 28 of 32 contests since Christmas (24-4-2-2).
Max Gortz opened the scoring at 7:17 of the first period when he chipped in a centering feed from Stu Bickel over the shoulder of Stockton goaltender David Rittich to give San Diego an early 1-0 lead. Gortz’s goal was his first since Jan. 25 at Tucson (20 games) and the Swedish forward now has 1-11=12 points in his last 13 games.
Tropp doubled San Diego’s lead at 16:17 as he slipped home the rebound from Keaton Thompson’s point shot past Rittich for his 19th goal of the campaign.
The middle frame belonged to the Heat as the visitors got on the board 6:14 into the middle frame when the rebound of Mark Jankowski’s drive landed on the stick blade of Garnet Hathaway who ripped the rebound past Tokarski. Hathaway’s goal was his fifth of the season and Jankowksi has 3-3=6 points in his last five contests.
San Diego ran into penalty trouble midway through the period when Antoine Laganiere took a double-minor for high-sticking and Sam Carrick went to the box for slashing. San Diego’s defense came up with some big blocked shots and Tokarski stood tall as the Gulls survived both shorthanded situations.
“I thought that was the turning point in the game,” said Eakins. “Dustin Tokarksi made some incredible saves to really keep us in it.”
Stockton tied the game at 5:42 of the third period on Michael Kostka’s drive from the point that beat a screened Tokarski. Matt Frattin registered an assist on the play and has 6-7=13 points in eight games against the Gulls this season.
The Gulls earned a power-play at 9:56 of the final frame when Linden Vey went to the box for hooking. Tropp struck again as he chipped the rebound of Thompson’s shot over Rittich and into the net for his team-leading 20th goal of the campaign and 50th point.
“That was a lucky goal,” said Tropp. “We got shots through on the power play and I was in the right spot at the right time.”
With two assists on the night, Thompson (0-2=2) recorded his second-career multi-point game and first since Dec. 31 at Texas. San Diego limited Stockton to only seven shots in the final stanza and played tight defense in the waning minutes to skate off with their third win against the Heat this season.
San Diego hits the road this weekend for a back-to-back set against the San Antonio Rampage Fri, Mar. 17 (5:30 p.m. PT) and Sat, Mar. 18 (5:00 p.m. PT). The Gulls return home to host the San Jose Barracuda on on Wednesday, Mar. 22 at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m.) Fans can purchase tickets by visiting AXS.com/Gulls or by phone at (619) 359-4730.
NOTES: Stu Bickel recorded two assists in his first multi-point effort since Feb. 26, 2015 w/ Iowa at Hamilton (0-2=2)…Spencer Abbott tallied an assist and has 4-5=9 points in his last 10 games…Jordan Samuels-Thomas also tallied an assist for San Diego…The Gulls improved 32-5-1-1 when scoring three or more goals and 20-2-2-1 when scoring first…Stockton goaltender David Rittich (11-10-1) stopped 30-of-33 shots in his 10th loss of the season.
1. Corey Tropp (SD)
2. Dustin Tokarski (SD)
3. Stu Bickel (SD)