Preview: Gulls Open 2019-20 Season Tonight at BakersfieldOct 4, 2019
Coming off a short offseason following a Western Conference Finals appearance, the Gulls are back and open the 2019-20 regular season against the Bakersfield Condors tonight at Mechanics Bank Arena (7 p.m., Free Stream: TheAHL.com/AHLTV, KOGO-600 AM). Entering their fifth season of play in the AHL, San Diego owns an all-time record of 153-95-15-8, including 81-45-6-3 at home and 72-49-9-5 on the road. With the success had in four seasons to date, the Gulls lead the Pacific Division in all-time wins, and co-lead in both points (329) and points percentage (.607%) since the division’s inception four seasons ago. Tonight will mark the first of six games in October, where the team has posted a 15-9-3-1 record all-time in the month.
Tonight will mark the third straight season-opening game on the road, and first at Bakersfield. San Diego is 3-1 in season openers, including the first-ever Gulls AHL contest Oct. 10, 2015 vs. Grand Rapids (4-2 win). The Gulls also posted wins Oct. 14, 2016 vs. Tucson (5-3 win) and Oct. 7 at Tucson (7-6 win). Tonight will also mark the debut for head coach Kevin Dineen following his hire July 15.
As both San Diego and Bakersfield begin their regular season, the two teams also kick off the first of an eight-game series against one another. In 2018-19, Bakersfield matched up against 10 total opposing teams throughout the season. San Diego was the only club 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). Over five seasons and 38 games played, San Diego is 21-15-1-1 all-time against Bakersfield in the regular season, including 10-7-1-1 at Rabobank Arena.
That success carried past the 2018-19 regular season and into the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. The two teams faced off for the chance to compete in the Western Conference Finals. The six-game series held some of the top moments of the Gulls season.
The Pacific Division Finals didn’t require a full seven games, but it amassed 457:55 over a span of 25 periods, largely due to a total of 97:55 of overtime in the series (seven OT periods). Three of the six games reached overtime, including the fifth-longest game in AHL History where Max Comtois ended Game 1 at 4:20 of the fourth OT, the fifth-longest game in AHL history (124:20). The Gulls prevailed as Pacific Division Champions with a 4-2 series victory, earning their first ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
Although this season’s Gulls roster holds 15 of the same names from the conclusion of last season, there are 11 new faces joning them in addition Dineen as just the second Gulls head coach in the club’s history.
“I’m a new piece as well, so I’d like to think the new pieces will work,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “It’s the life of a Triple-A team. Whether it’s baseball or hockey, I think there’s always transition. What’s exciting for us is that we know that there’s players that were here last year that are now playing in Anaheim and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Dineen looks to begin his first season as head coach of the Gulls on the right foot, with a win. Named to post July 15, Dineen was an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks (2014-18), helping the club to a Stanley Cup in 2015. Dineen previously served as head coach of the Florida Panthers from 2011-13. He spent six seasons as head coach of the Portland (AHL) from 2005-11, including three seasons with the Pirates as Anaheim’s primary affiliate (2005-08) where his teams went 135-76-29 (.623%) with two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals (2005, 2008).
Chase De Leo led the Gulls in 2018-19 scoring against the Condors with 2-7=9 points in 10 games, while Corey Tropp led with six goals in seven games. Kevin Boyle posted a 4-2-0 record in six starts. Anthony Stolarz has yet to face Bakersfield. In 2018-19, San Diego ranked second among AHL clubs with 3.51 goals-per game, while Bakersfield led the AHL (3.56). If the offense carries over from last season, the matchup has potential to be a high-scoring start to the season.
“We know them well. They’re going to be a fast team and they’re going to be quick,” said Gulls forward Sam Carrick. “They have a ton of skill so we’re going to have to be on our toes defensively. I’m looking around our room now and I really like our team as well. I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”
The Condors will have a similar look to last season as the team has holdovers such as Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody and Shane Starrett. In 2018-19, Benson set the Condors scoring record with 15-51=66 points over all 68 games during the regular season to finish second in the AHL rookie scoring race. Marody comes into his second season after finishing third among rookies and 12th among all skaters in scoring with 19-45=64 points over 58 games. In adition Joseph Gambardella and Josh Currie return with the Condors opening the season with their top four scorers from 2018-19.
Starrett remains the backstop of the team after the netminder finished third in wins (27) and goals against average (2.33), and fifth in save percentage (.917) last season that saw him named to the AHL All-Rookie Team and AHL Second All-Star Team.