Gulls Begin Season Series With The WranglersDec 2, 2022
By Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls battle the Calgary Wranglers to start an eight-game regular season series at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
Tonight’s game will be the first of four consecutive matchups between the Gulls and Wranglers, the former Stockton Heat and American Hockey League affiliate of the Calgary Flames. Heading into this game, Calgary is 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games with a Pacific Division-leading 70 goals. Meanwhile, the Gulls are trying to snap a four-game losing streak.
Calgary’s offense is their best weapon. As of Dec. 1, 2022, right wing Matthew Phillips leads both the Wranglers and the American Hockey League (AHL) with 13-13=26 points. He is riding a six-game point streak, accumulating 4-7=11 points. However, he is not their only weapon, as left wing Jakob Pelletier is on an impressive 10-game point streak. During this stretch, he registered 7-10=17 points, moving him into the top ten in AHL scoring. Additionally, Calgary has the third-best power play in the league at 29.3%.
San Diego needs to be ready for this explosive offense. The Gulls' penalty kill is ranked sixth in the AHL at 83.9%, making for an intriguing special teams matchup. Luckily for the Gulls, goaltender Lukas Dostal is playing at an elite level, giving them an edge. Last game against the Colorado Eagles, he stopped 49 out of 51 shots. His play consistently gives the Gulls an advantage between the pipes and a good foundation to build their game around.
Gulls defenseman Luka Profaca highlighted the importance of the small details in the defensive zone.
"I think [Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke] is really preaching, you know, just the small stuff, all the little details," Profaca said. "So, stay inside the dots and, you know, it's doing the little stuff that you don't really think of as, or at least I wouldn't think of by playing in the OHL last year, but, you know, a lot of things do matter, those small details."
The Gulls offense is looking to establish itself against a top team and gain some confidence. Left wing Rocco Grimaldi is leading the charge, scoring three power-play goals (PPG) in his last two games, ending Wednesday’s game co-leading the league in man-advantage tallies with seven. Defenseman Olli Juolevi is making noise offensively with his playmaking ability, posting seven assists in his last six games. He is producing both on the power play and even strength, which is an area that Gulls head coach Roy Sommer wants to improve.
"I think the big thing is, you know, winning 50-50 races in the offensive zone," Sommer said following the 3-1 loss to the Eagles. "And, you know, again, three guys around the puck. We'll get one forechecker in and the other four checkers (are) late and then they're coming right out."
This is the start of a tough stretch of games for the Gulls, but it is also an opportunity. Four straight divisional games can help the team close the gap in the standings. San Diego is led by strong goaltending, giving them a chance to win each game.
"I think we just got to move our feet and limit our turnovers," Profaca said on the gameplan against the Wranglers. "That was a big emphasis on our practice today. It's just limiting, wherever you turn pucks over, and you know, how we manage it in the offensive zone, how we break out the defensive zone. So all those things will contribute to wins against Calgary."