PREVIEW: Gulls Head North Of The Border For Weekend Battle In AbbotsfordJan 21, 2022
By Paige Burnell/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls brought their three-game win streak north of the border and into Canada and are set to play their first road games in franchise history against the Abbotsford Canucks, starting tonight at Abbotsford Centre (7 p.m., PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
The Gulls are 1-2-0-0 all-time against Abbotsford after earning their first win over the American Hockey League’s newest franchise, a 4-3 victory on home ice just a week ago.
This win marked the beginning of the Gulls current unbeaten streak of three games (3-0-0-0). Additionally, the Gulls earned standings points in five of the six games played since the start of the 2022 calendar year (4-1-1-0).
"I think we can be proud of the guys," Gulls assistant coach Max Talbot said. "We obviously have adversity right now and we’re battling through and guys are really showing up. They’re having a good attitude, ready for anything and really, it shows on the ice also. The game against Stockton was better against the game against San Jose so there was progress there and guys showed up, they showed a lot of character."
San Diego is entering the home stretch of a four-game road trip. The team opened with two wins, doubling the San Jose Barracuda 4-2 on Jan. 18 before a shorthanded squad took down the division-leading Stockton Heat 3-2 on Jan. 19.
One of the keys to those wins – a strong forecheck and fast, physical game. The Gulls know they’ll need to replicate this system to find success against a heavy Abbotsford squad.
"That’s definitely a challenge that I think we can rise to and we saw that last week against those guys," Gulls forward Jack Badini said. "Again, when we’re playing our best, we’re playing physically, we’re playing fast and getting in on the forecheck and creating offense that way. That’ something that we know we can do every well and we’ll look forward to do this weekend too."
Lucas Elvenes is settling into a playmaker role, collecting an assist on all three goals scored (0-3=3) by San Diego in its win over the Heat, matching a career-high for assists in a game.
Brayden Tracey also ramped up his offensive production with 2-5=7 points from Jan. 7 to Jan. 21, to ranking fifth in points among rookies over the last two weeks. The right wing also leads the Gulls in all scoring categories with 9-15=24 points and tops the team with a +13 rating.
Goaltender Francis Marotte is one of the key cogs to the Gulls recent success, posting a 2.34 goals-against average (GAA) and a .930 save percentage (SV%) over the three-game win streak. He’s backstopped San Diego to points in four of his first five AHL starts (3-1-1-0).
"With a lot of guys out for various reasons and we’ve been playing with a shortened lineup, guys are really coming together and really want to pay well for each other and win for each other," Badini said. "You guys saw that in the last couple of games. At the same time, we’re not satisfied. We still have business to take care of this weekend."
Abbotsford enters the weekend with a 12-12-3-1 record and is currently without some of its most potent offensive weapons in Sheldon Dries and Justin Bailey due to recent recalls by the Vancouver Canucks. In the absence of these players, defenseman Nic Petan’s 5-13=18 points tie him with Phil Di Giuseppe, who has 7-11=18 points, for the team lead in scoring.
Petan assisted on Abbotsford’s lone goal in their 2-0 shutout win against the Ontario Reign six days ago and notched three assists (0-3=3) in three games against the Gulls this season.
With three games against the Abbotsford under their belt, San Diego knows what to expect and how to attack these Canucks.
"We can use what we did against Stockton and we can also use what we did against Abbotsford last weekend," Talbot said. "The first game, they came out very hard and kind of stunned us a little bit. We played better as the game went on. Game number two last Saturday, guys were really on their toes, physical, more gritty and it showed on the scoreboard also."