PREVIEW: Gulls vs. CondorsMar 29, 2019
The San Diego Gulls continue a four-game homestand this evening vs. the division-leading Bakersfield Condors at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT, Radio: Mighty 1090). The Gulls enter tonight with points in four of their previous five games (3-1-1-0) as their magic number to clinch a postseason berth sits at 10 with seven games remaining. For the Condors, a single point would lock their spot in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs with eight games to play.
Tonight marks the third game of a four-game homestand for San Diego, including three games in a span of four days. The Gulls are coming off of a 3-2 loss to San Jose at Pechanga Arena two nights ago with the Barracuda edging out a tight victory after scoring a power-play goal with under five minutes in regulation. Ben Street and Adam Cracknell scored goals for San Diego, while Chase De Leo extended his point streak to five games (2-5=7) with an assist. The game also saw rookie Brent Gates Jr. earn an assist in his professional debut following his four-year collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. Gates Jr. became the 52nd player to appear in a game for the Gulls this season, tops among AHL teams and a new club record surpassing the previous mark of 51 set in 2015-16.
“It was really exciting,” said Brent Gates Jr. following his AHL debut. “In the first period, it took a few shifts to get my feet under me and start thinking straight, but I had two really good players (Ben Street and Adam Cracknell) to play with who have been around and done really well. They were able to help me out a lot. They made it a lot easier on me. When the second and third period rolled around, it felt like I was just playing hockey.”
The playoff race is tight in the Pacific Division as San Diego (73 pts), San Jose (73 pts.) and Colorado (71 pts.) are all separated by just two points. None of the three teams are locked into the playoff picture either as Tucson has slowly climbed back into the fold with 67 points and eight games remaining in their regular season schedule. With each of the top-five teams in the division playing in back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow, closing out the 12-game March schedule with a couple of wins could be the difference of who makes the post-season.
“That’s what it’s like playing in this division,” said Adam Cracknell regarding the tight playoff race. “Especially this weekend coming up, we have Bakersfield next. We’re all right in the top four and those are both big games. We’re fighting for home-ice advantage right now. That was a tough one to give up, but in two days here, we get a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Tonight marks the 10th and final meeting between San Diego and Bakersfield this season. The Gulls have won six of the nine games against the Condors (6-2-0-1), gaining points in seven of the contests (5-2-0-1) in addition to a 3-1-0-0 record on home ice. In 37 all-time against the Condors, The Gulls own a 20-15-1-1 record, including 11-7-0-0 at Pechanga Arena. In addition, San Diego have never been bested in overtime on home ice, winning all four games that required extra minutes to reach a decision.
At the other end of the rink in tonight’s matchup is Shane Starrett and the Bakersfield Condors who have had a phenomenal second half of the season. After a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Eagles on Jan. 11th, Bakersfield had lost its fifth consecutive game and were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Since that loss, the Condors have won 26 of their following 31 matchups, outscoring their opponents 133-64 over that span.
A big reason for that success has been their netminder, who won 17-of-18 matchups from Jan. 12-Mar. 9, including a 14-game win streak. Starrett ranks in the top three among AHL goaltenders in nearly every goaltender category. Tied for second in save percentage (.921), Starrett also ranks tied for third in wins (25), goals against average (2.21) and shutouts (4). Despite those marks, he has dropped two of the last three matchups against the Gulls and allowed nine goals over that span.
Corey Tropp leads the Gulls in all-time scoring (60-80=140), goals, and ranks second in assists and games played (175). He has been a weapon in six games against the Condors this season, scoring five goals and adding an assist with a +2 rating.