Gulls Aim to Ground Condors in BakersfieldNov 7, 2019
The Gulls look to extend their winning streak to three games as they kick off a three-game road trip tonight against the Bakersfield Condors at Mechanics Arena in Bakersfield (7 p.m., Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network). San Diego played just six games over the last 35 days dating back to their season-opening game in Bakersfield on Friday, Oct. 4. Now they begin a slate of six games in nine days, a stretch with four road contests between tonight and next Saturday.
"We’re excited to get on a little bit of a roll and to get on the road together," head coach Kevin Dineen said. "A lot of hockey in a short period of time. We have some extra bodies and we’ll take advantage of those guys that are going to need our depth. Exciting times for us."
Last weekend, the Gulls earned their first two wins of the season in a back-to-back home series against the Colorado Eagles that saw the club score 10 goals overall with five players recording multi-point games. Daniel Sprong was the only player to record multiple points in each game as he earned a goal and an assist in both contests. Seven players notched their first goal of the season and a total of 15 skaters recorded at least one point in the two wins. Goaltender Anthony Stolarz started both contests, stopping a combined 57 shots with Friday’s victory his first in a Gulls sweater.
“The guys were sacrificing their bodies and blocking shots (last weekend),” said Stolarz following Saturday’s game. “You can see the offensive talent that we have. When we play a full 60 minutes, we’re a good hockey team.”
The Gulls will look to continue their recent success in the same building they opened their 2019-20 season in. In 2018-19, San Diego was the only team during the regular season to post a winning record against the Condors with a 6-3-0-1 record, earning points in four-of-five road contests (3-1-0-1). The Gulls hold an all-time record of 21-16-1-1 vs. the Condors, with a 10-8-1-1 record in Bakersfield. The two clubs each opened their 2019-20 schedule against one another on Oct. 4, their first meeting this season. The Condors came away with the 2-1 win as Kiefer Sherwood scored the lone San Diego goal while Stolarz stopped 26-of-28 shots.
The Gulls offense is starting to click as both new and established players are becoming familiar with the system and have started to build chemistry with one another. Left wing Blake Pietila has recorded four points (1G/3A) his last two games, including a three-point effort Nov. 1 vs. Colorado (1-2=3). Sprong now co-leads San Diego with 3-3=6 points and paces the team in goals (3) after collecting back-to-back multi-point games with a goal and assist in each contest Nov. 1-2 (2-2=4). On the heels of his first multi-point effort as a Gull, blueliner Jani Hakanpaa earned three assists the last two games (0-3=3). Center Isac Lundestrom netted back-to-back game-winning goals this weekend, his first two career AHL goals (2-0=2).
“We are working hard and when you’re working hard those bounces are going to come for you,” said Sprong. “The first six games we weren’t working hard and that’s what happens, you don’t get those bounces. We are a good team and we are going to score on those chances.”
San Diego’s special teams has been just that, special. The team has successfully killed 26-of-31 penalties (83.9%) to date, placing them second in the Pacific Division. The club is also on a streak of 12 consecutive penalties killed dating to Oct. 25. On the power play, the Gulls have capitalized on six-of-35 attempts (17.1%) through eight games this season and have scored power-play goals in four consecutive games (5-for-20, 25.0%). San Diego will look to continue that momentum heading into the upcoming slate of games.
“We struggled early on with both,” said Alex Broadhurst. “It’s an important part of the game. Sometimes it wins you games and sometimes it loses you games. We knew that going in so we worked a lot on it in practice these last couple of weeks and it’s good to see it’s paying off.”
Bakersfield (5-5-1-0) enters the game with back-to-back wins as well, sweeping the Ontario Reign in a weekend set to begin their November schedule. The score was settled in overtime on Friday (3-2), while earning a 4-1 win Saturday on the road. The Condors have gone 33-for-41 (80.5%) on the penalty kill, but have struggled on the power play through 11 games. They have scored on seven of their 49 power-play attempts (14.3%), leaving them near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Current Condors point leader Tyler Benson came away with a three-point weekend (2G/1A) after he picked up an assist in Friday’s game and netted his first two goals of the season in Saturday’s matchup. Rookie defenseman Evan Bouchard also picked up three points (1G/2A) over the weekend while forwards Josh Currie and Brad Malone both netted a goal on Friday and picked up an assist Saturday.
Goaltender Stuart Skinner (4-1-1) took the net in each contest last weekend in the back-to-back, stopping 68-of-71 shots to post a 1.47 goals-against average (GAA) and .958 save percentage (SV% on the weekend. Saturday’s 43 saves set a regular-season career high for the , recording his regular season career high save count for the Edmonton native.