Preview: Gulls Open 2018-19 Season at TucsonOct 5, 2018
After 175 days, Gulls hockey is back. San Diego begins their fourth AHL season tonight on the road at the Tucson Roadrunners at Tucson Arena (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM), the scene of where the Gulls' 2017-18 campaign abruptly ended following three straight losses to the Roadrunners, including the final two on the road.
It's a new season, but the same workmanlike attitude continues to emanate from Gulls head caoch Dallas Eakins. The focus remains on how the Gulls compete and battle every shift with game No. 1 tonight just as critical as the final contest of the season.
"We've been more business as usual than anything. We like to keep level heads here but I can feel a little bit of the anticipation building," said head coach Dallas Eakins.
"For three years here since I've been here and it will never stop, is the importance that every moment that you are in this dressing room or on the ice is a criticial moment," said Eakins. "We can take one game against Tucson. There's two points available. We may need those two points at the end of the season so let's get them now while they may be a little easier to grab."
Nine new faces arrive for the Gulls on their roster to open the new campaign, including rookies forwards Jack Kopacka and Tyler Soy, and defensemen Josh Mahura and Simon Benoit. Joining the youngsters are forwards Chase De Leo, Jake Marchment, Logan Shaw and Ben Thomson, while 2017 Calder Cup winning goaltender Jared Coreau enters the fold.
With a new-look group, there's a short window to instantly create chemistry with four lines and three defense pairings, but opening the season on the road provides the opporutnity to bond and create more camaraderie within the group.
"I kind of like getting on the road right away, getting the guys together and doing our best to get that first win," added Eakins. "Every little bit counts. The one thing that has been going on is most of our guys have been in the hotel and they've been together a lot through training camp. Through this first month you want them together as much as you can."
Despite the new faces, the goal remains the same: Develop players for the Anaheim Ducks and do so in a winning environment. That environment is helped with the return of Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins, who enters his fourth season behind the bench after leading the club to an all-time record of 118-71-10-5, including at 63-32-5-2 at home and 55-39-5-3 on the road. San Diego’s 118 wins since 2015 leads the Pacific Division since its inception four seasons ago. San Diego also leads the division in all-time wins (100) and fewest losses within the division with 100-65-8-5 record against Pacific Division rivals.
Tonight marks San Diego’s second consecutive season-opening game on the road at Tucson. San Diego is 3-0 in season openers, winning the first two contests on home ice at Valley View Casino Center, including the first-ever Gulls AHL contest Oct. 10, 2015 vs. Grand Rapids (4-2 win) and Oct. 14, 2016 vs. Tucson (5-3 win). In 2016-17, San Diego won it’s only road season opener at Tucson Arena, a 7-6 victory on Oct. 7, 2017. San Diego’s season-opening roster includes four AHL rookies, the fewest on a Gulls opening day roster in club history.
Familiear foes following 24 previous matchups over the past two seasons, the Gulls and Roadrunners meet for the first of consecutive games to begin the 2018-19 season and the opening contests of an eight-game season series against the Roadrunners. All-time, San Diego has earned a 15-8-0-1 record vs. the Roadrunners, earning points in 16 of the 24 matchups (8-4-0-0 on the road). The Gulls went 5-7-0-0 vs. the Roadrunners last season, including 2-4-0-0 at Tucson Arena.
Going back to 2016-17, the Gulls posted a 10-1-0-1 record in Tucson’s inaugural season, including a perfect 6-0-0-0 mark on the road. Corey Tropp paces all active Gulls skaters in goals and points vs. Tucson in 19 career games (10-11=21).Tropp also leads the Gulls in all-time scoring (43-65=108) and goals, while he ranks second in assists and games played.
Tucson enters their third season in the AHL and Pacific Division on the heels of their first postseason berth and a first-round series win over San Jose before falling to the Texas Stars (four-games-to-one) in the Pacific Division Finals.
Like the Gulls, Tucson expects to rely on their players from the net out with a solid foundation in their goaltending tandem of Adin Hill and Hunter Miska, and a mobile defense to lean on with a more youthful forward group.
Hill and Miska combined two win 41-of-42 wins for Tucson last season, while they return defefnsemen Kyle Capbianco, Trevor Murrphy and Dakota Mermis, the latter two having made their NHL debuts in 2017-18.
The group of young forwards includes for the Roadrunners consists of five AHL rookies in their first professional seasons, but they are joined by returning forward Michael Bunting, Lane Pederson, Hudson Fasching and Jens Looke. In addition, the Arizona Coyotes organization acquired Adam Helewka from San Jose in exchnage for defenseman Kyle Wood during the offseason.