PREVIEW: Gulls, Canucks Open Weekend Series On Home IceJan 13, 2022
By Paige Burnell/SanDiegoGulls.com
Coming off a solid weekend against the best of the Pacific Division, the San Diego Gulls are looking to earn the franchise’s first win against the Abbotsford Canucks tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
The Gulls are 0-1-0-0 against Abbotsford in the club’s inaugural year after a 4-0 loss on Dec. 15, that saw Abbotsford’s physical style stymie its offense.
"They were fast, they were physical," Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said. "We didn’t handle that physical part too well, which is kind of normal. Beginning of the year when we played them a little bit, we ewe still under 20 games and it was the first time we had a team that was that physical o us. Again, that’s a month ago or more so let’s see how we do and we still have work to do."
The Gulls earned three of a possible four points against the Stockton Heat (4-1 win) and Ontario Reign (5-4 overtime loss) last weekend, turning to its offense to get back on track.
"As the season has been going on, we’ve been trending in the right direction," Gulls defenseman Trevor Carrick said. "After the break it kind of looked like we didn’t take any steps back. We’re still taking those steps forward so it was nice to see and hopefully, we can keep building off of it."
Brayden Tracey collected 2-2=4 in two consecutive multi-point games (Jan. 7 and 8) and Hunter Drew scored goals in back-to-back games (2-0=2) for the first time in his career.
Bryce Kindopp also stirred things up as he earned 1-2=3 in the team’s two games last weekend while Brent Gates Jr. collected his first goal and assist (1-1=2) with the club this season.
"We have Kindopp, who’s done such a good job this year," Bouchard said. "He’s been a bit of a guy who’s under the radar. You know, he’s never really been a center and he’s been playing the position almost every game this year. He’s been helping us a lot. Gates is a new player that we just got last weekend that did very well and that can also help at center."
It’s expected one of the newest Gulls, center Lucas Elvenes, will make his debut after the Anaheim Ducks claimed off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11.
The Angelholm, Sweden native produced 2-8=10 points this season with the Henderson Silver Knights and is quickly adjusting to his new team.
"I’ve played against them for a few times for sure so I know it’s a good team, good organization," Elvenes said of the Gulls following his initial skate with the team. "First time in a practice rink too so it looks very good and I’m just looking forward to it."
A foundational part of the Gulls success last weekend was the performance of its defense, as it effectively controlled the puck and forced it into the opponent’s o-zone to feed the offense.
"If you look at our forwards, we’ve got a really young forward group up front," Carrick said. "So, you know as a veteran defense on the backend, it starts with us and I think we’re just trying to look to play solid and simple and just try to move the puck up and get it in the o-zone. I thought we did a pretty good job of that and just playing hard in our d-zone. So, just trying to help the forwards out as much as possible."
Additionally, defenseman Nikolas Brouillard made quite the impact on the score sheet to aid San Diego’s offense by tallying 1-2=3 points.
Abbotsford is 10-11-3-1 this season and enters tonight on a three-game losing streak, with all those losses coming against the Bakersfield Condors. The Canucks haven’t played since their last loss, a 4-0 setback on January 9, after enhanced COVID-19 protocols postponed a fourth game against the Condors.
Abbotsford is paced by center Sheldon Dries, who leads the team in goals (13) and points (24) and is tied for first in assists (11). Dries recorded a goal in the win over the Gulls in December. Goaltender Michael DiPietro enters tonight as the presumed starter, bringing in a 3-7-2 record with a 3.38 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.