Gulls, Condors Open Home-And-Home Series In IrvineFeb 17, 2021
The Gulls look to continue their undefeated start as they host the Bakersfield Condors tonight at FivePoint Arena (7 p.m., Radio: Gulls Audio Network; Stream: AHLTV). San Diego won five consecutive games to open the 2020-21 season, setting a new franchise record, and is currently tied with the Chicago Wolves for the league lead in wins (5) and points (10).
San Diego began the 2020-21 campaign with back-to-back wins over Bakersfield. Lukas Dostal earned the first two victories over his American Hockey League career, stopping 69-of-73 Condors shots for a .945 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average. Trevor Zegras paced San Diego skaters in scoring, posting 2-3=5 points in his first two AHL contests en route to earning AHL Player of the Week honors.
“We obviously want to keep rolling here and these guys haven’t won so far so they are going to be looking to get out of it,” said Gulls assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “They’re a better team than their record shows right now, especially on offense. They have guys that can produce and can bring some momentum to the game. Their power play can be really good, so our penalty kill will have to be sharp again.”
A key aspect of San Diego’s early success is the work of the aforementioned penalty kill. The Gulls are 21-for-22 (95.5%) while shorthanded this season, best in the AHL (min. 10 times shorthanded).
“First of all, it’s been good goaltending," said Lefebvre. "Our goaltenders, Stolarz and Dostal, have been outstanding. It starts with them.
"I also think we’ve done a good job killing the penalties outside of our zone as much as possible. With our speedy forwards, we try to put pressure up ice, on the entries and on puck recoveries. You always hear the cliché, when you clear the puck, they have to go 200-feet. We’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
The two factors - combined with success at even strength - led to San Diego allowing just nine goals against, the fewest goals conceded through five games in club history.
“We’re trying to limit the quality shots from the slot,” said Lefebvre. “Obviously, teams are really good offensively in this league, so we’re trying to push the play to the outside and get our sticks on those shots. I think our goalies have been so good so far, too. They’re very talented and make it look easy.”
Bakersfield sits on the opposite end of the spectrum - last in the Pacific Division with a 0-4-0 record. In four games, the Condors goal differential sits at minus-5, and they're only one of four teams in the AHL with five or fewer goals scored (min. two games played).
Stuart Skinner recently returned to Bakersfield when the Edmonton Oilers reassigned the goaltender last week. The third-year pro started one game for Bakersfield, a 3-0 shutout loss to the Henderson Silver Knights on February 13.
San Diego’s lineup Wednesday could include a new face as the team signed left wing Jamie Devane to a professional tryout. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound forward is a veteran of 340 career AHL games and no stranger to the Pacific Division, having played for Stockton (2016-17) and Ontario (2017-19).
“I try to play hard every night and bring a level of physicality and toughness to the team,” Devane said. “I’ve got to get up to speed as fast as I can with systems and getting into game shape. You replicate it in practice as best you can and then take mental reps away from the rink, so when game time comes, you’re ready.”
Tonight is the third game of an eight-game season series between San Diego and Bakersfield. The Gulls own a 27-17-1-2 record all-time against the Condors, including a 14-9-0-1 mark on home ice.