Gulls November is One to RememberDec 2, 2019
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
What a difference a month makes.
San Diego entered November in a season-opening slump. A 3-2 loss to the hated Ontario Reign left the Gulls with an 0-6-0-0 record. This loss seemed more painful than some of the others, as the Reign managed to grab the lead late in regulation, denying San Diego the chance to gain its first point of the season.
“We felt like we played a pretty good brand of hockey last weekend,” head coach Kevin Dineen said when speaking of that Oct. 25 setback. “Good enough for our fate to have been a lot different. It didn’t work out that way, so let’s stay with that. Let’s go out there and know that we have a formula within our group and carry it into the game.”
The coach gave this assessment before San Diego dropped the puck against the Colorado Eagles on Nov. 1. Little did the team know, it would define the mindset the Gulls adopted throughout November.
San Diego opened the month with a win over the Eagles and continued to pile up victories. They grabbed four straight wins to begin November, picking up five goals in three of the four games. A setback in Stockton on Nov. 11 – a second game of a back-to-back set – only temporarily knocked the Gulls off course. The team would go on to collect five more wins, setting a new club record for most wins in the month of November.
The team came alive offensively during the month, scoring a club-record 51 goals in the month.
“I might have to keep the mustache,” captain Sam Carrick joked when recapping the team’s success. “It was a good month. I think after the start we had in October, it’s a good bounce back for us. We’re still not where we want to be in the standings, so there’s still a ton of work to do.”
Carrick led by example throughout the month, helping lead the charge offensively. The captain recorded a hat trick during the team’s historic 9-3 thrashing of the San Jose Barracuda on Nov. 13, the fifth in Gulls history and the first on home ice at Pechanga Arena San Diego. He closed the month with 10 goals and 12 points, co-leading the AHL in goals and co-leading forwards in plus/minus during the month (+12).
He enters December as San Diego’s leader in scoring, goals and plus/minus.
Carrick wasn’t the only one filling the scoresheet. The month saw production come from several different spots in the lineup. Alex Dostie closed the month with goals in three straight games and sits just one point away from tying his career high.
Chris Wideman solidified his spot as the team’s top offensive threat from the blueline, ending the month with seven goals and finishing tied for the team lead with eight assists. He currently leads American Hockey League defenseman in goals and sits sixth in points (15).
Spreading the offensive production helped San Diego earned the results it wanted.
“We are looking to do that every night, not just some nights,” Carrick said following the team’s 6-2 win over Tucson. “We’ve seen it in spurts this season so you can pick and choose. It doesn’t really matter what team we are playing. They’re the first team in our division, and this is how we can play. This is a good confidence game for us. We know we can hang in there with any team in the league. This division is always so tight and the games are always so close, right down to the playoffs. I know it’s far to be thinking about playoffs, but you have to be in this division because every team is so close.”
Dineen offered a simple answer for the team’s increased offensive production.
“Pucks on the net,” he explained last Saturday night. “You can keep saying that there’s some kind of a system adjustment that we made, but when you put a focus on putting pucks on net, good things tend to follow.”
Goals don’t matter if you’re not keeping the team off the board, and San Diego stiffened defensively throughout the month. The goaltenders – both Anthony Stolarz and Kevin Boyle – saw increased efficiency. Stolarz – recalled earlier today by the Anaheim Ducks – finished the month with eight wins, leading the team and tied for seventh among AHL goaltenders.
He also posted a career-high seven-game win streak from Nov. 1-16 to surpass his previous high of five, set with Lehigh Valley in 2017.
The team’s penalty kill served as an offensive weapon, racking up seven shorthanded goals during the month. Alex Broadhurst,
Justin Kloos and Carrick all finished November with two shorthanded goals, sitting just one away from tying the club’s single-season record.
The key for San Diego is to carry over the momentum and make December another successful month.
“It’s a long season and now we are taking these last seven games going into Christmas, where we are looking to win those games,” Carrick said. “Every win is going to be big.”