PREVIEW: Gulls vs. StarsJan 16, 2019
The Gulls return home with the longest point streak in the AHL this season and a road trip that saw them earn seven of a possible eight points. San Diego kicks off the first of a two-game homestand tonight as they face former Pacific Division rivals, the Texas Stars, at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT, Radio: Mighty 1090). The Gulls enter tonight looking to extend a club record 14-game point streak (11-0-1-2), the longest point streak in the AHL. On home ice, San Diego has won five straight games dating to Dec. 15, while the team has secured wins in six of seven (6-1-0-0) on home ice.
The second half of the regular season (Games 35-68) has been historically kind to the Gulls. Dating to 2015-16, San Diego is 64-30-7-2 all-time in the second half and ranks second in AHL win percentage (.665%,) during the three-year span. The Gulls rank second among AHL clubs in second half wins (64) and have the second-fewest regulation losses (29). San Diego has earned points in 73 of the 103 games to date (71%).
The Gulls completed a four-game road trip two nights ago with a 3-2 overtime setback that extended their club record point streak to 14 games but ended an eight-game win streak that tied a club record set on two previous occasions. Veteran forward Adam Cracknell scored the game-tying goal with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime in which Chase De Leo earned the primary assist on an incredible no look behind-the-back pass.
“We had had a bunch of minutes in their zone, and rather than draw up a play, Adam Cracknell just yelled on the bench right away, ‘they’re gassed, let’s go,’” said head coach Dallas Eakins regarding the late, game-tying goal. “By them being so tired, the other team, we were able to get something there. That’s what happens when you’re playing well. Good things happen.”
Despite an overtime loss in the three-on-three session, Kevin Boyle (15-5-1) continues to be a rock in net for San Diego. He has helped the Gulls earn points in each of his last 11 starts, posting a 10-0-1 record in that span that included winning a club record 10 straight games from Dec. 15-Jan. 12. He has also won his last five home starts dating to Dec. 15 that mirrors the team’s win streak in America’s Finest City.
The four games away from home ice marked the club’s longest road trip to this point of the season and the nine-day stretch is one of two long breaks away from Pechanga Arena San Diego. The Gulls will also have a 13-day break between home games following Saturday’s contest with a few road games and the All-Star Break before their Feb. 1 contest. The team has posted an 11-5-1-1 record (24 points) on home ice this season, the best home start in club history through 18 home games with 24 points and 11 wins. The Gulls currently have a season-high five straight wins on home ice and points in 12 of the last 16 home games (11-4-1-1, 24 points). In addition, they have 64 goals at home through the first 18 home games this season, their highest goal total through 18 home games in club history.
It is no secret that the faithful San Diego fans support has played a part in the Gulls’ winning ways. The team currently leads the Western Conference and ranks second in the AHL in attendance this season with an average of 8,582 fans per game. The Gulls sold out their 11th game in club history on Nov. 9 and just last year, San Diego became the first team in 12 seasons to usurp the Hershey Bears atop the league’s attendance charts.
Just over the half-way mark of the season, forward Sam Carrick is a single goal away from tying the Gulls’ single-season record for goals (21, previously set by Kalle Kossila, Corey Tropp and Antoine Laganiere). He can also climb San Diego’s all-time scoring chart and surpass Brandon Montour (89) for sole position of third place.
He also ranks third among AHL leaders in goals (20) and co-leads the AHL with three shorthanded goals this season.
The Texas Stars have won three consecutive games and have points in nine of their last 10 games (7-1-1-1). The Dallas Stars primary AHL affiliate is also in a very tight race for the Central Division lead as five teams are separated by just four points. Texas will be fighting to potentially take first place in their division, while San Diego could claim second place in the Pacific Division if they come away with two points.
The Stars are led in scoring and goals by rookie center Joel L’Esperance who has collected 35 points (22G/13A). He also ranks second among AHL leaders in goals. In net, Landon Bow (16-5-0) has received the yeoman’s work with 27 appearances, posting a 2.56 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. His 16 wins are second among AHL leaders while his 1498 minutes are third.
In short, the game will be fought hard by both sides.