Preview: Gulls Return to Ontario with Five-Game Point StreakNov 2, 2018
The Gulls travel to Ontario to begin a two-game road trip and face the Reign in the second of 12 matchups between the two clubs this season tonight at Citizens Business Bank Arena (6:00 p.m., Mighty 1090). It has been exactly three weeks since these teams last met, where the Gulls would take a 6-5 shootout win courtesy of a Chase De Leo game-deciding goal.
San Diego is currently riding a five-game point streak (3-0-1-1) that began with that same shootout victory in Ontario. The Reign has had trouble adding to the number displayed in the win column this season, as they are currently one of three teams to have less than three wins on the season (also San Antonio and Syracuse), posting a 2-4-2-1 record.
“It’s a big rivalry at the NHL level and it’s turned into a wonderful rivalry here with us,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “I love that we play them all the time. I think the games are exciting, I think they’re intense, I think they’re great for the fans and I think it’s great for both teams’ development.”
The Gulls own a 22-13-1-1 all-time record against the Los Angeles Kings’ affiliate team, including a 12-6-0-1 record when playing in Ontario. Contrary to the previous 6-5 shootout win, these two teams have generally had low-scoring affairs as the Gulls have averaged 2.5 goals for (91 total) and 2.6 goals against (92 total) over the four seasons that they have matched up against one another.
It has been six full days without a game for the Gulls, the longest break from games so far this season. Tonight’s contest kicks off a stretch of four games in eight days, and both coaches and players are ready to get it started.
“We got some good conditioning in early, we got to work on some specialty stuff with our power play, penalty killing and some faceoff plays,” added Eakins. “We were able to get to the pace that we needed as well. You keep trying to hit that nail on the head with certain words that you want to resonate with them and constant reminders with our system. As great as it is to have that amount of practice time, we’re ready to play now.”
A series of Gulls’ roster moves were made throughout the week, resulting in a several players being called up to the NHL affiliate Anaheim Ducks and others being reassigned to San Diego. The Gulls’ roster is going to have a different look than the one that was presented this past weekend.
One of the players coming to San Diego, who could be playing in his first AHL game, is former first-round pick Sam Steel, selected by Anaheim 30th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Steel started the season with the Anaheim Ducks, recording 1-2=3 points and 17 shots over 13 games. But his overall resume speaks volumes as he scored 123-215=338 points with a +78 rating in 258 career WHL games with the Regina Pats (2014-18). He was named the 2018 Memorial Cup MVP after leading all skaters in points (2-11=13) and assists in five games with Regina. His five assists (all primary) on May 23, 2018 vs. Swift Current tied a Memorial Cup record for assists in a single game.
“I played with Troy (Terry) there in the rookie camp, we’ve had some good chemistry,” said Steel. “I haven’t played with (Max Jones) a lot because he has been hurt, but we should be good. They’re both great players. The first practice here, we felt good together. We’re all guys that like to make plays and can skate and think the game. Hopefully, we can complement each other nicely out there.”
With Sam Steel joining Max Jones on the San Diego roster, it marks the third time that the Gulls have had two Ducks’ first round selections on their roster and the first time since 2016-17. Previously, Shea Theodore (26th overall in 2013) and Emerson Etem (29th overall in 2010) played together in 2016-17 and Theodore also matched up with Nick Ritchie (10th overall in 2014) in the 2015-16 season.
Ontario enters tonight on the heels of a 5-3 home win Thursday night over the Texas Stars. Ontario trailed 3-2 after 20 minutes, but rallied for three straight goals to close out their first win since Oct. 6. Matt Luff currently leads Ontario in scoring (6-6=12) and co-leads the club in goals along with Sheldon Rempal. Four Reign forwards are operating at over a point per game: Luff (12 points, eight games), Matt Moulson (3-8=11 points, nine games), Brett Sutter (1-10=11 points, nine games) and Rempal (6-4=10 points, six games).
Cal Petersen has been the mainstay in net for Ontario, appearing in eight of the nine contests, posting a 1-2-3 record with a 4.52 goals-against average and .871 save percentage.