April 9, 2016
STOCKTON, Calif. – The San Diego Gulls (38-22-3-2) rode a pair of goals from Kenny Ryan, three assists from top star Chris Mueller and saw two different players on amateur tryouts contribute to goals as the Gulls beat the Stockton Heat 6-2 at Stockton Arena on Saturday night.
Starting their most inexperienced lineup of the season, the Gulls nonetheless made a road victory at Stockton look old hat, scoring the game’s first four goals on route to victory. San Diego improved to 13-3-0-1 over their last seventeen road contests. The result moved the Gulls within two points of clinching second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division.
A quintet of call-ups to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks prior to game time left San Diego without key contributors Nick Ritchie, Mike Sgarbossa, Shea Theodore, Corey Tropp and Stefan Noesen. Combined with injuries, the Gulls scratched twelve players from their lineup against the Heat (30-30-2-2), starting four players on amateur tryout (ATO) agreements.
One of those ATO skaters was forward Tyler Morley, making his AHL debut after a four-year career at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Teamed with Mueller and Ryan on the Gulls’ top line, Morley made his presence felt on his first professional shot on goal, finishing a one-timer on right wing in close after a perfect feed from Mueller behind the end line. The Gulls led 1-0 after 4:11 of the first period.
San Diego’s makeshift lineup included head coach Dallas Eakins moving a pair of defensemen up to the fourth line as forwards, Andrew O’Brien and Stu Bickel. After Gulls rookie defenseman Brian Cooper (ATO from University of Nebraska-Omaha) rang the right post behind the Heat’s 18-year-old netminder Nick Schneider, Bickel was there outside the crease’s right edge to backhand home the rebound along the ice and into the net for his first goal of the season. San Diego had a 2-0 lead at 9:03 of the opening frame.
The Gulls would take eight penalties on the night, including an Antoine Laganiere double minor for high sticking in the first period. While the Heat were unable to generate any offense, San Diego’s Joseph Cramarossa pounced on a steal just outside his own end line on the right wall and proceeded to skate up the ice weaving through defenders. Cramarossa stick-handled through the right circle before lifting a wrist shot over Schneider’s catching glove and into the net for his eleventh goal of the season, and a Gulls 3-0 lead at 13:59, an advantage they would carry into the second period.
Chris Mueller opened the second period scoring with a steal in the Stockton zone below the right circle. He skated behind the net before spotting Kenny Ryan in the slot for a one-time goal, Ryan’s fifth of the year, and a 4-0 lead at 4:32.
The Heat would battle back on special teams. Kenny Agostino’s power play goal, his 21st score of the season, made it 4-1 Gulls at 8:27. Later in the frame, when the Gulls earned their first power play of the night on a Brett Kulak interference call, the Heat returned the favor and scored short-handed. Mark Jankowski drove in behind the San Diego net before feeding Garnet Hathaway for his eighth goal of the year, halving the deficit to 4-2 at 15:07 of the second period.
Momentum would shift on the edge of a blade less than a minute later, as Stockton defenseman Yann Suave fell down in his zone trying to protect the puck from San Diego’s Matt Bailey. The Gulls center claimed the gift puck lying in front of him and skated in unimpeded on Schneider, perfectly executing a right-to-left deke to his backhand for a wide open net and his fifth goal of the season at 16:06 of the third. The Gulls carried a 5-2 lead into the third period.
Kenny Ryan’s power play goal, from Mueller and Morley, capped off the scoring at 4:10 of the third. The Gulls killed off almost two minutes of 5-on-3 power play during the game, with Matt Hackett stopping 30-of-32 shots faced overall to secure his ninth win of the year (9-7-1). Rookie defenseman Andrew Welinski (ATO from University of Minnesota-Duluth) recorded a +3 rating in his second pro start.
San Diego and Stockton conclude their season series with a 4pm contest on Sunday afternoon from Stockton Arena.
NOTES: A Texas Stars 8-5 win over San Jose prevented the Gulls from clinching second place in the AHL Pacific Division…any combination of two Gulls points gained or two Texas Stars points lost in the final week will send home ice San Diego’s way…the Gulls matched a season-high for goals (6), accomplished five other times this season and for the past two games in a row…Mueller’s three assists moved him back into a tie for the team lead in points (55) with Brandon Montour…Morley was credited with an assist on the Ryan power play goal (originally given to Welinski) for a two-point night in his AHL debut…Joe Piskula added a lone assist to the San Diego cause…Ryan was +3 on the night in addition to his two goals…San Diego scored first and led after 40 minutes, fortifying two of their most robust stats of the season: the Gulls are 28-0-2-1 when scoring first, and 31-0-0 when leading after forty minutes.
1st Star: SD Chris Mueller (0-3=3 points, +2 rating); 2nd Star: SD Kenny Ryan (2-0=2 points, +3 rating); 3rd Star: STK Mark Jankowski (0-2=2 points, 1 SOG)