Preview: Gulls vs. EaglesNov 8, 2018
The Gulls open a season-long five-game homestand tonight when they host the Colorado Eagles for the first time ever in a back-to-back matchup at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m., Mighty 1090). The weekend games will serve at the fourth annual Military Weekend to pay tribute to local military members and their families, as well as raise awareness and funds for local military nonprofit organizations. [More info at the end of this story].
After making a third-period push with three goals on Wednesday at Tucson, the Gulls eventually fell via a 6-3 scoreline to the Roadrunners. San Diego has points in five of their last seven games, but after winning three straight games from Oct. 13-20, the Gulls have gone winless the last four games (0-2-1-1).
“We got pucks on net on the power play, but it’s not enough,” said Fiore. “We can’t just count on our power play to score goals all game long. We have to play five-on-five also. We’ll start digging into (Colorado), and we have to show up and have a higher compete level.”
The newest addition to the AHL this season, Colorado visits California in the first matchup between the two clubs. The Eagles previously served as the Colorado Avalanche’s ECHL affiliate from 2016-18, winning the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions in both 2017 and 2018. However, in October 2017, the Avalanche announced they would purchase a new franchise in place their new affiliate in Loveland, Colo. after sharing their primary affiliate with the St. Louis Blues in the San Antonio Rampage during the 2017-18 season.
Colorado picked up where they left off in the ECHL, finding immediate success as they jumped out to a 6-2-2-0 record for a .700 points percentage, ranking seventh in the AHL and third in the Pacific Division. Colorado is coming off back-to-back wins last weekend over the Tucson Roadrunners on home ice. The Eagles are led by 28-year old goaltender Pavel Frncouz, a Czech Republic native in his first AHL season. Francouz has posted a 6-1-0 record with a 2.32 GAA and .922 SV% in his seven appearances and allowing three goals or less in all but one start.
The Gulls will gain one more roster player from Wednesday with center Chase De Leo being assigned by Anaheim to San Diego just after the mid-week contest at the Roadrunners kicked off. The Ducks are still ravaged by injuries, with Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase and Max Comtois all still out, with Corey Perry out long-term with a knee injury and Carter Rowney out with an oblique injury. The Ducks host the Minnesota Wild Friday evening, and if either of Ritchie, Kase or Comtois rejoin the club, the Gulls could potentially add another forward to their mix.
Despite a scattershot start to the season, San Diego is one of three AHL clubs with both the power play and penalty kill ranked in the top-10 (also Iowa and Charlotte). The Gulls power play ranks fourth among league leaders and has scored in eight of nine games to date (10-of-38, 26.3 percent). The penalty kill ranks 10th in the AHL (46-for-59, 84.8%), killing 10 consecutive penalties entering tonight dating back to Oct 27.
The Gulls will look to rebound from their previous losses and secure two wins this weekend in front of a notably large San Diego crowd. The Gulls opened the 2018-19 season with 12,467 fans in attendance, the most in an AHL home opener this season. While America's Finest Fans currently lead the Western Conference and rank second among AHL clubs in attendance this season (8,322 avg.), Military Weekend and a large expected crowd for both games can help fuel a changing of the tide on the ice.
Both nights this weekend will see the Gulls wear a new patriotic-themed specialty jersey. On Friday (Nov. 9), all fans in attendance will receive a free Gulls desert camouflage hat, while supplies last. Select game-worn Gulls jerseys will be autographed and available for a silent auction following Saturday's contest on the concourse at Section 10. A game-worn jersey raffle will begin each night at 6 p.m. and end at the conclusion of the second period each game. A select number of game-worn jerseys will be available via the DASH Auction app, a digital auction platform. Fans can also text DASH to 66866 to download the app. All proceeds raised by the San Diego Gulls Foundation via the auction and raffles will be donated to the Armed Services YMCA, Operation Rebound of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and All-Star Vets.
Military Weekend will culminate on Saturday, Nov. 10, and fans are encouraged to arrive early Saturday evening for the military-themed Bud Light Pre-game Tailgate from 5-7 p.m. The tailgate, located in the North Parking Lot, will feature a $5 Bud Light Truck, military vehicles on display, food truck options, street hockey, photos with the Gulls Girls and Gulliver, and interactive games for fans of all ages. Prior to the tailgate, Patriots Hockey, a veteran charity hockey club, will host the San Diego Heat (Fire Rescue Hockey Club) on the ice at Valley View Casino Center (2:30-4 p.m.). The charity hockey game is free of charge.