PREVIEW: Gulls at ReignJan 6, 2019
The San Diego Gulls begin a four-game road trip today as they look to push the AHL’s hottest standings point streak to 11 games against the Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena (3 p.m., Radio: Mighty 1090). The Gulls enters tonight with points in a season-high 10 consecutive games (8-0-0-2), the longest current standings point streak in the AHL. The point streak is one game shy of the club’s 11 straight games without a regulation loss from Feb. 19-Mar. 16, 2016 (9-0-1-1) and 12 straight from Jan. 7-Feb. 7, 2017 (11-0-0-1).
“We’re having fun, I think that’s the biggest thing,” said Gulls netminder Kevin Boyle of the win streak. “We’re enjoying coming to the rink every day and we’re enjoying going to battle with each other and for each other. I think that’s huge and it’s great to see in the locker room and out on the ice. It’s incredible just to see the passion that guys are playing with.”
In addition, San Diego has also won five straight games, which is tied for the most in the AHL and marks a season-best for the club. With 36 points (16-11-1-3), the 2018-19 Gulls have the best start to a season through the Gulls’ first 31 games in club history.
The rejuvenated Gulls have been led by head coach Dallas Eakins, who is currently on the brink of a major organizational milestone. The San Diego Gulls currently have 134 wins all-time and all of them have been behind Eakins. The fourth-year coach of the Gulls is now one win away from tying Kevin Dineen (135) for the most wins by a head coach of the Anaheim Ducks primary affiliate. Dallas Eakins and the Gulls own an all-time record of 134-82-11-8, including 74-37-6-3 at home (.654%) and 60-45-5-5 on the road (.565%).
“It’s our mindset. We’ve tightened the screws. We’ve gone back and evaluated, ‘what does hard mean.’ Our group really embraced it,” said head coach Dallas Eakins regarding the team’s toughness. “I love our grittiness and competitiveness right now. That’s right through our lineup. It’s not always about being super physical, but we are all over pucks. Our guys who are physical are doing that. We have guys going to the net and we must have had seven or eight guys dive in front of shots. We have a lot of good things going on and the important thing now is to not become complacent with it or even resent the hard work that we’ve done.”
Another reason for San Diego’s recent success has been goaltender Kevin Boyle’s strong performances. The netminder has won a personal best seven straight games dating to Dec. 15, posting a posting a 2.12 GAA and .926 SV% during the stretch. Boyle has stopped 187-of-202 shots during his win streak which surpassed his previous high of six consecutive victories from Jan. 27-Feb. 17, 2018. Boyle is one game shy of tying the most consecutive wins by a Gulls goaltender (8) set by Jhonas Enroth from Jan. 16-Feb. 7, 2017 (1.12 GAA, .956 SV%)
Today, the Gulls and Reign hit the midway point of a 12-game season series and the fourth contest at Citizens Business Bank Arena. All time, the Gulls have earned a 23-15-1-2 record vs. the Reign and are currently 2-2-0-1 in five previous matchups. They have earned points in the two most recent matchups, a 5-3 win Dec. 21 at Pechanga Arena San Diego and a 7-6 shootout loss Dec. 22 at Ontario.
“That’s about as gritty and hard as we’ve played this year,” said Eakins following their last matchup on Dec. 22. “Adversity is always good for anyone and we definitely experienced it tonight. It was such a great response on the bench the whole night. You can go and do a lot of team bonding things away from the ice, but that was about as good as an exercise right there tonight for team bonding.”
The last time these teams met, a 7-6 shootout loss against the Reign on Dec. 22, one of the most entertaining games all season broke out. 10 different Gulls players found their way on the scoresheet as the Gulls battled back and scored four third period goals to force extra time and gain a point. The game also marked the last time San Diego has lost a game.
Since the last meeting between these two clubs, Ontario has accomplished the opposite of San Diego and has dropped four straight games. Each of their four losses the Reign have failed to pick up a point in the standings and have totalled just five goals, while giving up 13. Because of their recent struggles, Ontario currently sits at the bottom of the AHL as the only team yet to reach 30 points (25).