Gulls Fall To Abbotsford in Homestand FinaleFeb 1, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls dropped the final matchup of four-game homestand tonight, losing to the Abbotsford Canucks 6-1 tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
The Canucks received multi-point performances from Kyle Rau, Tristen Nielsen and Phil Di Giuseppe to snap a five-game losing skid. Goaltender Arturs Silvos stopped 21 shots, collecting his 17th win of the season.
Rocco Grimaldi scored his team-leading 18th goal – a power-play tally – in the loss. Benoit-Olivier Groulx extended his season-high point streak to a fourth game, while Michael Del Zotto collected an assist to remain among the league’s highest scoring defenseman since joining the Gulls. Lukas Dostal stopped 22 shots in the loss.
"I thought we had a really good first," Groulx said. "We were only down one goal and I thought were really good defensively. Offensively, we had a lot of chances. In the second period, we were just soft defensively. We were missing assignments defensively, and that cost us. We knew they had a lot of really good players offensively and that’s what happened. Good players make plays, and they can finish and that’s what they did."
Abbotsford jumped ahead late in the first period on Nils Aman’s third goal of the season. The Canucks worked the puck through neutral zone, with Phil Di Giuseppe chipping the puck into San Diego’s end for a 2-on-1 rush. His pass worked through a sliding Gull and onto the stick of Aman, who roofed a shot past the lunging Dostal for the game’s first goal.
The visitors pushed their advantage to four in the middle frame, scoring thrice in the first seven minutes.
Christian Wolanin netted Abbotsford’s second goal of the night just 1:44 into the period, beating Dostal from the blue line for his fifth goal of the season. Arshdeep Bains added on just 16 seconds later, sending a slap shot through traffic for his seventh goal of the season.
Danila Klimovich pushed the lead to four at 7:50 of the period, beating Dostal on an short breakaway chance to net his 10th goal of the season.
Grimaldi put San Diego on the board late in the second period, scoring his 18th goal of the season on the power play. The Rossmoor, CA native played a two-man game with Groulx, passing the puck down to the faceoff circle. Groulx gave the puck back to Grimaldi, who crept down to the low point. His first shot found an Abbotsford defenseman, but he quickly pounced on the rebound and ripped a wrist shot by Silvos.
"Special teams have been a lot better lately," Gulls defenseman Austin Strand. "Power play scored tonight, which is great. I think, you know, Sparresy’s (Gulls assistant coach Kris Sparre) been working a lot with them, I know, and he's getting a lot of feedback from the guys, what they want to do and yeah, just I think trying new things and finding what clicks. And I think right now they're finding something that's clicking, so it’s good."
Grimaldi’s 8-9=17 points on the man-advantage leads the team in power-play goals and points while Groulx has 2-3=5 points in four games.
Del Zotto, who earned the second assist on the goal, has 4-10=14 points to lead all Gulls blueliners since joining the club on Dec. 19. He’s tied for fourth among all league defensemen in scoring during that span. The Gulls’ defense currently accounts for 31.2% of its offense (26-of-81 points) over the last 13 games, with 3-9=12 points coming from Del Zotto.
The Canucks added on in the final frame, with goals from Rau (PPG) and Nielsen setting the final score.
"You know, it's a fragile team, I'm not gonna lie," Gulls head coach Roy Sommer said. "You know, we played the first period, it was good. You know, kind of tit for tat (at) both ends and I think we were out shooting 8-4 or something like that going into the second. You know, then they get one quick one and then they get another one right after and we just kind of lost our bearings after that. You know, we're just having a hard time concentrating for 60 minutes and you know putting a full game together; that's what's been killing us. You know, we play in spurts but it's not enough."
The Gulls will head on the road before the league’s All-Star Classic, facing the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Friday at 7 p.m. PT at Acrisure Arena.