PREVIEW: Gulls at BarracudaApr 3, 2019
The AHL’s regular season is nearing a close as the San Diego Gulls open the final month of 2018-19 with a five-game April schedule. The final stretch begins tonight against the San Jose Barracuda at SAP Center (7 p.m. PT, Radio: Mighty 1090). San Jose currently sit second in the Pacific Division with a four-point cushion on the Gulls and a game in hand, but a win tonight could change that with the Gulls in third place and another game between these clubs in seven days.
“Well we’re right in the midst of a real gritty playoff race,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “Our team has been through a lot of adversity this year. I think we’re excited to be where we’re at. In December we found ourselves almost at the very bottom of the standings. We’ve clawed our way back up so obviously the next 10 days, two weeks here, are going to be extremely important.”
San Diego is coming off a four-game homestand that started with a victory over Ontario but turned into three one-goal losses. The most recent contest was a heartbreaker as a 1-0 third period lead turned into a 2-1 loss to Stockton that was decided by a game-winning Heat goal with 13 seconds in regulation. However, the Gulls have been road warriors of late, gaining points in four straight road contests (3-0-0-1) and in 19 of their last 23 (14-4-3-2) away from home. During a 5-4 win at Bakersfield on Mar. 13, San Diego reached triple digits in goals away from home this season to surpass the club’s previous best of 100 total road goals in 2017-18. Now standing at 111 road goals with three additional games remaining on their road schedule in 2018-19, finding the back of the net in opponents’ arenas has been no issue for San Diego.
The two California rivals will meet for the penultimate contest of a 10-game season series tonight at SAP Center. Tonight also marks the fifth and final instance that the clubs will meet in San Jose. Through eight matchups so far this season, the Gulls have posted a 5-3-0-0 record against the Barracuda, outscoring them 34-24. San Diego owns a 22-13-2-1 record in 38 all-time matchups, including a 9-9-1-0 mark on the road.
“Well [San Jose is] a good team,” added Eakins regarding the Barracuda. “They can skate, they’re quick, they’re very opportunistic and we’re just going to have to be on our game right through the full 60 minutes.”
Much like the Gulls and Sam Carrick, the Barracuda were recently reassigned one of their top performers of 2018-19 in forward Dylan Gambrell. In his first AHL season, Gambrell leads the Barracuda in points per game (0.91) and ranks second in goals (18). The former San Jose second-round draft selection in 2016 has split time between the Barracuda and the NHL that drafted him, the San Jose Sharks. Gambrell has yet to score in at the NHL level, but has found success against the Gulls this season, recording 2-5=7 points in their last four matchups.
The main reason for San Jose’s success this season has not been from their scoring, but rather their ability to prevent others from producing. The team features one of the best goaltenders in the league, Josef Korenar, a native of the Czech Republic. Korenar has posted a 21-8-2 record with a 2.57 goals-against average (GAA), .910 save percentage (SV%) and four shutouts, with his 21 wins ranking second among rookie goaltenders.
Between the pipes for San Diego, Kevin Boyle has started the team’s last eight games and is the likely started in net for a pivotal matchup tonight. Boyle has posted a 4-1-0 record with a 2.17 GAA and .923 SV% in five starts against San Jose this season.