PREVIEW: Gulls vs. EaglesMar 8, 2019
The San Diego Gulls continue a three-game homestand and begin a back-to-back matchup this evening against the Colorado Eagles at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT, Radio: Mighty 1090). Tonight opens the 14th back-to-back of the season, where the Gulls are 15-6-2-3 overall and 7-4-0-2 in the first matchup and 8-2-2-1 in the second contest. San Diego also leads the AHL in goals-per game (3.65) while the 195 goals this season (excluding shootout goals) is the most through 54 games in club history, vastly outpacing their former record of 173 in 2017-18. Tonight’s game will also feature the inaugural Sock Toss (more information below).
San Diego continued their scoring prowess this season with five goals just two nights ago, but fell in a disheartening 7-5 loss to the Stockton Heat. Adam Cracknell scored two goals and added an assist in the game to push his point streak to six games (5-5=10) and he now has scored 11-9=20 points his last 13 games and 12-11=23 points in 20 games since joining San Diego on Dec. 10. Cracknell has also scored his six consecutive home games (7-3=10).
Through six meetings with Colorado this season, all coming on back-to-back games, the Gulls have posted a 3-2-1-0 record. Just as their records against one another have been close, so have the individual games. Five of their six matchups have been decided by just one goal and the lone game that wasn’t, featured a last minute empty-net goal that gave Colorado a 2-0 win (Dec. 7 at Colorado). In the Gulls’ two home contests against Colorado on Military Weekend (Nov. 9-10 at San Diego), San Diego is a perfect 2-0-0-0.
The Eagles have spent the majority of the season, especially the past couple of months, fighting to qualify for this season’s playoffs. Now, they enter this weekend with four straight wins where they have outscored opponents by a 16-6 margin. The four-game win streak has propelled them past the Tucson Roadrunner and into the fourth spot of the Pacific Division standings with a 28-22-3-1 record. Their lead is slim, as Tucson holds two games in hand with 14 games remaining in Colorado’s first AHL season.
“Anytime we’re going against an opponent that’s sitting in a playoff spot, it’s going to be a test for us,” said Gulls forward Corey Tropp on playing Colorado. “Focus on the things that we do rather than focusing on the other teams, we usually have success. I don’t think that it’s so much so what other teams are doing at this point, it’s just how we come out and play.”
Colorado goaltender Pavel Francouz was selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Mar. 3, 2019. Francouz was a perfect 4-0-0 in four starts last week, allowing just six goals on 145 shots (1.48 GAA, .959 SV%) to help the Eagles move into a playoff position in the Pacific Division standings. In his first season of play in North America, Francouz has made 38 appearances for the Eagles and owns a record of 21-13-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a .918 SV%. He is currently tied for third in the AHL in victories and ranks second in saves (1,093) while placing fourth in minutes played (2,169). A native of Plzen, Czech Republic, Francouz also made his NHL debut with the Colorado Avalanche earlier this season, posting a .943 SV% in two appearances.
“We want to get to him, we know he’s been hot,” said Gulls leading scorer Sam Carrick regarding Pavel Francouz. “The last game against us, he played pretty well as well. For a guy like that, I think you just have to stay on him. Those guys are going to wear down sooner or later. It can be tough sometimes when you run into a hot goalie and it seems like nothing is going your way, but we have a lot of scoring power on our team. That’s not something that we’re worried about too much.”
The first-year team has experienced ups and downs throughout the season, but one of the areas of their game that stands out is their discipline. The Eagles lead the AHL in penalty minutes per game (16.98) while also leading the Western Conference with 917 penalty minutes. The Eagles penalty kill has been able to counter the trend, as Colorado lead the division in penalty killing at 83.2 (213-of-256) and lead the AHL with 14 shorthanded goals. However, San Diego has been able to capitalize on the man advantage with four power-play goals in the previous three meetings.
However, San Diego has been able to capitalize on the man advantage four times in their previous three games against the Eagles. In addition, the Gulls are coming off Wednesday’s game where they scored four power-play goals to tie a club record set on two previous occasions: (last: Jan. 5, 2018 vs. San Jose; 4-for-5). The special teams battle will be something to look for in this weekend’s matchups.
Gulls forwards Kalle Kossila and Chase De Leo have been able to find the scoresheet with ease in this season’s contests against Colorado. Leading up to this weekend’s matchups, both players have suited up for all six games against the Colorado Avalanche’s primary affiliate. Over the six contests, Kossila has picked up 1-6=7 points, including two multi-point efforts and a game-tying goal with just 38 seconds of game clock remaining (Feb. 13). De Leo has recorded 3-3=6 points this season, leading the team in goals in games against Colorado and scoring the first ever game-winning goal for the Gulls in their penultimate matchup the Eagles (Nov. 9).
Inaugural Sock Toss
Tonight’s game will also feature the Gulls’ inaugural Sock Toss, where fans can help give back to the community in a new and exciting way. Similar to the popular Teddy Bear Toss, following the first goal, fans will be encouraged to bring one or more pairs of new socks to throw on the ice when the team scores their first goal of the game. All socks collected during the Sock Toss will be donated to Alpha Project, a local nonprofit organization that empowers those who are motivated to change their lives and achieve self-sufficiency. Alpha Project will donate all of the socks to benefit San Diego’s homeless community, the fourth-largest in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (more than 8,500).
Bagging stations to keep socks clean, and bins for additional, larger donations, will be available at all entrances of Pechanga Arena San Diego. The Gulls will also offer fans the ability to purchase new pairs of Gulls socks for $15 at all merchandise stands (limited while supplies last).
Alpha Project states that many of its homeless community have only one pair, or very few pairs of socks, while the highest demand for socks is during rainy months. All sock donations will be donated directly to the homeless community Alpha Project serves.