Griffins Stun Gulls On Late GoalDec 11, 2019
The Gulls concluded a three-game homestand with a 4-3 setback to the Grand Rapids Griffins at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Despite the setback, San Diego has earned points in 10 of its last 14 contests (9-4-1-0). The game also marked Gulls head coach Kevin Dineen’s 500th AHL game coached.
Max Jones, Brent Gates Jr. and Chase De Leo scored for San Diego, while Anthony Stolarz stopped 27 shots in the setback. Forward Alex Broadhurst recorded his 200th career AHL point with an assist on the Gates goal.
“I think we came out with a lot of energy,” Broadhurst said. “What really hurt us was going up by two goals and got a little comfortable. We sat back and took our foot off the gas pedal. Credit to them, they took it to us. We’re disappointed, it sucks. We’re going to watch some video and clean some things up, but if we can start games like that and be consistent throughout the whole game then we should find some wins.”
The Griffins got on the scoreboard first courtesy of Givani Smith’s goal 3:23 into the game. Turner Elson sent Dominic Turgeon in stride with an outlet pass through the neutral zone and Turgeon created an odd-man rush to find enough space to put the puck into the slot through Gulls defenseman Ryan Johnston where Smith was able to score the game’s first goal.
San Diego answered 75 seconds later with a pair of goals just 13 seconds apart. Jones broke up an attempt to clear the zone by Grand Rapids and kicked the puck out to Chris Wideman at the point. Wideman fired a wrist shot at the net, hitting multiple bodies, including Justin Kloos, before getting to the slot. Falling backwards, Jones was able to push the puck past Griffins goaltender Calvin Pickard for his first goal of the season.
On the ensuing faceoff, Deven Sideroff broke up a play by the Griffins in the neutral zone and pushed the puck forward to Broadhurst, who carried the puck past the blue line for a 2-on-1 rush. Griffins defenseman Alec McCrea, a San Diego native, attempted to block the pass across to Gates, but slid into Pickard in the process, allowing Gates to score the go-ahead goal. The assist by Broadhurst marked his 200th career AHL point.
The Gulls extended their lead to 3-1 when De Leo scored a shorthanded goal 9:30 into the opening frame. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Isac Lundestrom pushed the puck to De Leo, creating a breakaway opportunity. De Leo sent a slapshot at Pickard, which slipped between his leg pads and into the net. The score capped off a flurry of three goals in a span of 4:52 for San Diego and marked their eighth shorthanded goal to co-lead the AHL and now lead the Western Conference.
“I think we came out with a lot of energy,” said De Leo regarding the quick start. “If we can start games like that and be consistent throughout the whole game then we should find some wins.”
Stolarz had a strong performance through the first 20 minutes of play, stopping 11 of the Griffins 12 shots on net. The Gulls scored three goals on their eight first-period shots. Neither team was able to capitalize on each of their two power-play chances, but the Gulls scored the eighth shorthanded goal of the season to co-lead the AHL.
“It’s huge,” said De Leo about the shorthanded success. “Obviously, we don’t want to give the other team power plays and give them the upper hand, but it is nice when we can score and it doesn’t really matter if we’re shorthanded, on the powerplay or 5-on-5. We have to be able to compete and do our job.”
The Griffins got back on the board with 10:36 remaining in the middle frame, closing the score gap to 3-2. After a puck battle along the boards, Smith got the puck to McCrea who was waiting at the point. He passed the puck to defenseman Joe Hicketts who took a slap shot towards the net. The traffic in front of the net prevented Stolarz from seeing the puck, which slipped past his left side.
Despite the Griffins goal in the second period, the Gulls carried the 3-2 lead into the locker room. Grand Rapids continued to hold the lead in shots with a 22-13 advantage through two periods of play.
The Griffins tied the score at three goals apiece when Chris Terry capitalized on the power play 7:32 into the third period. Elson sent a back-handed pass to Terry on a 2-on-1 chance, who sent a wrist shot to the top corner of the net for the equalizer. Griffins left wing Eric Tangradi also picked up an assist on the play.
Grand Rapids sealed the win with 1:27 on the clock in regulation as Evgeny Svechnikov carried the puck into the Gulls zone and fed it to Madison Bowey to Stolarz’s right. Griffins captain Matt Ford skated into the slot, ready for the puck and tipped it over sprawling Stolarz’s glove.
The Gulls pulled Stolarz for the extra attacker with 58 seconds remaining in the third period. With 30 seconds left, a massive scrum in the crease broke out that nearly resulted in the Gulls evening the score, but Pickard was able to cover the puck for a whistle. Jones had another chance from the slot with three seconds left, but the shot went wide and the Griffins held on for a 4-3 victory.
“When he’s effective, he’s very noticeable because he’s on the puck and he’s hanging onto the puck,” said Dineen about the play of Max Jones. “He’s moving his body as much as anything and when he does that, that’s when he’s effective. Those are important aspects for him. He’s got to keep his composure, when you’re a big guy like that and as physically involved as he is there’s going to be a lot of confrontations. I think he understands that we need him on the ice and playing. That’s when he’ll be the most effective for us.”
The Gulls will now head to Colorado where they will face the Eagles in back-to-back matchups at Budweiser Events Center on Friday, Dec. 13 (6:05 p.m. PT) and Saturday, Dec. 14 (6:05 p.m. PT), marking the club’s first games outside the state of California.