Nov. 30, 2016
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls (8-5-1-0) aim to extend a franchise-record six-game winning streak as they host the Tucson Roadrunners (9-2-2-0) tonight at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m., 1700-AM).
San Diego has won a franchise record six consecutive games (outscoring opponents 23-12), the longest winning streak in club history (previous: four games, three times in 2015-16…last; Mar. 8-16, 2016), and the longest current win streak in the AHL. San Diego is currently 6-4-0 vs. Pacific Division Opponents and boasts a 5-1-1 record when scoring the game’s opening goal.
Tonight marks the second contest between these two teams after the Gulls won the first-ever matchup between the two teams 5-3 in the season opener on Oct. 14 at Valley View Casino Center (one of two regulation losses for the Roadrunners). Tucson comes to town with a scorching 7-2-1-0 record in its last ten games and most recently split a weekend series with the Stockton Heat. Center Chris Mueller leads all Roadrunners with 3-14=17 points in 13 games and posted two assists on Oct. 14 vs. the Gulls. Tucson forward Brendan Perlini, who scored three goals over the weekend, now leads the the AHL in goal scoring with 11. Perlini has done so in the Roadrunners’ league-low 13 games played.
The Pacific Division rivals face off 12 times during the 2016-17 season, splitting the contests with six games at Valley View Casino Center, and six in Tucson with 11 contests remaining (including tonight). The clubs had a set of games scheduled for Nov. 22 and 23 but the contests were postponed by the American Hockey League out of respect to Roadrunners’ Captain Craig Cunningham. Cunningham was hospitalized on Nov. 19 after suffering a medical emergency prior to the start of the game against Manitoba. Dates and times for the games are still to be determined.
Goaltender Dustin Tokarski is on a roll as of late, winning four consecutive games (4-0-0), posting a .906 SV% and a 2.43 GAA. The Watson, Saskatchewan native has also notched a 4-0-0 record at home this season, stopping 116-of-127 shots he has faced at Valley View Casino Center (2.70 GAA and .913 SV%). Tokarski made 29 saves and earned the win in the Gulls first matchup with Tucson this season.
“I think our commitment to defense. I think our goaltending has given us saves when we needed it,” said Gulls Head Coach Dallas Eakins following yesterday’s practice at Poway Ice Arena. “Overall, a real buy-in to our system during this good time we’ve been having. We have had a ton of injuries, but the guys that have been coming into our lineup know our system well and have played well for us.”
Gulls right wing Corey Tropp has compiled 6-13=19 points in the opening 14 games of the campaign. The veteran earned 0-2=2 points on Sunday at Ontario for his sixth multi-point game of the season to extend a career-long seven-game point streak. His new career mark surpasses a previous career-high, set twice in the 2010-11 season (3-3=6 points Nov. 28-Dec. 10, 2010 and 1-5=6 points, Mar. 8-18, 2011. Tropp ranks tied for second among league leaders (minimum 9 games) in points-per game (1.36), tied for third in points (19) and tied for fourth in assists (13). He also tallied a season-high 1-2=3 points in the season opener vs. the Roadrunners.
“Tropper has given us some real hard minutes. He plays a physical game and he is the ultimate pro,” said Eakins in reference to Tropp’s stellar play. “He has been a real key guy on that line. Stefan Noesen has been excellent, we’ve had to move him to center. He’s just nodded his head every time we ask him to do something. Obviously, Kevin has the skill to score. We like those three together and feel like they are feeding off of each other. We are going to do our best to keep them together while we have all these injuries.”
Rookie center Kevin Roy ranks tied for third among league rookies and leads the Gulls in goals (7) while picking up seven points (4-3=7) in his last seven games.
“My linemates make it easy to play with them. Noesen sees the ice really well and has good speed,” said Roy. “Tropper makes good plays out there as well. We definitely make each other’s lives easier. If we tighten up on defense the offense takes care of itself. I am just glad I can help us get on this winning streak and hopefully keep it going.”
The Roadrunners, who have played the league’s fewest games (13) come to San Diego looking for their second consecutive win after splitting a weekend contest with Stockton. Tucson sits at the top of the Pacific Division and leads the league in special teams. The Roadrunners lead all clubs in power play percentage (33.1%) and ranking second among the 30 teams in penalty killing (87.3%).
“The last two-three weeks, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league, they’ve won a lot of games, they’ve had some call-ups,” said Tucson Head Coach Mark Lamb in an article posted on the club’s website. “That first game was kind of a blur, but what really stood out in that game was their power play, they scored a couple of power play goals against us and they had all kinds of chances, so that’s something that we have to look at. We made adjustments after that game to our penalty killing, and hopefully it’s an adjustment that’s going to help us tomorrow night.
Following tonight’s game, the Gulls head to Stockton this weekend (Dec 2-3) for a set of back-to-backs against the Heat (both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.).
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