PREVIEW: Gulls vs. BarracudaMar 27, 2019
With just eight games still to play in the regular season, the Gulls continue a four-game homestand with a matchup tonight against the Pacific Division rival San Jose Barracuda, Wednesday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m.). San Diego enters tonight with points in four straight games (3-0-1-0), seven of their last nine (5-2-2-0) and 30 of the last 39 games overall (25-9-3-2).
“We want to be geared up for the playoff run right now,” said Gulls forward Ben Thomson. “Lately, we’ve been playing some good hockey. It seems like we’re trending upwards at the right time and that’s huge. Sometimes in the playoffs, it’s whatever team can go on the best run and we have the firepower to do that. We’re all feeling pretty good going into the final stretch of the year.”
Tonight is a proverbial four-point game with the Gulls holding their two-point lead over the Barracuda and can distance themselves with the matchup marking the first of three contests over the next 14 days. The Gulls are 5-2-0-0 against the Barracuda this season, including a perfect 3-0-0-0 record on home ice. San Diego won a club record five straight games over San Jose earlier this season from Dec. 15-Feb. 16, outscoring the Barracuda 27-11 in that span. San Diego is 22-12-2-1 all-time against San Jose in addition to a 13-3-1-1 mark at home.
“As soon as I got here, I felt like this was a team that could do some damage in the playoffs and we’ve shown it throughout the year,” said Thomson. “We’re a really deep club and that’s what it’s going to take to win in the playoffs. I feel like this might be something special this year.”
San Jose enters play tonight looking to make up lost ground in the Pacific Division, as the Barracuda have gone 2-7-1-0 their last 10 games against divisional opponents. San Jose is currently tied with the Colorado Eagles for third-place in the division, but hold three games in hand in addition to one in hand on San Diego.
The Barracuda’s offense is powered by the young forward trio of Alexander True, Francis Perron, and Dylan Gambrell. True has scored six goals in seven games against San Diego this season and leads the team with 48 points (22-26=48) in 59 games. Gambrell has split time between the Barracuda and their NHL affiliate San Jose Sharks, posting 40 points (17G/23A) in 44 games with the minor-league club. Perron, acquired by the Sharks in the Erik Karlsson trade, ranks second on the club with 41 points (17G/24A), while defenseman Nick DeSimone leads Barracuda blueliners in points (41), goals (11) and assists (30). Rookie goaltender Josef Korenar is the top goaltender for the Barracuda, posting a 20-8-2 record with four shutouts, a 2.59 GAA and .909 SV%.
The Gulls will look to build on the momentum gained from the 5-4 shootout victory over the rival Ontario Reign Saturday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Kevin Boyle made 33 saves and Chase De Leo scored twice as the Gulls jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. Ontario fought back to force the game into a shootout, but Justin Kloos scored the game-winner for San Diego, sealing the victory in front of 12,534 fans.
“We have a real sense of it doesn’t matter what’s happened. We’re able to focus in fairly quickly on what’s important rather than looking down at the ground, staring at our skates and feeling sorry for ourselves,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “I think that’s something we’ve really worked on this year and it says a lot about the character of our team.”