Gulls Fall In Final Home Game

Hvidston Scores First AHL Goal In Loss To Wranglers

Apr 8, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

Despite a strong effort in their final home game of the regular season, the San Diego Gulls fell 3-2 to the Calgary Wranglers tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

"Big thing for us all weekend long was that we competed," Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke said. "I mean, we're in the game right from the start right to the end, and that's one thing that at times, during the year, that we’ve kind of really struggled with. We're just very inconsistent with our compete level and out of both games, we competed for 60 minutes ,and we just didn't get the results we wanted. I mean, that's the way it goes sometimes."

Matthew Phillips scored the game-winning goal – repeating his clutch performance from the previous night’s contest – as Calgary ran its point streak to 13 games (12-0-0-1). Oscar Dansk stopped 21 shots to collect his third win in his last four games.

Connor Hvidston collected his first American Hockey League goal and Benoit-Olivier Groulx scored shorthanded for the Gulls, who saw their losing streak hit three. Michael Del Zotto and Justin Kirkland earned assists, while Gage Alexander stopped 28 shots.

Calgary started strong, grabbing a 2-0 lead before the game hit the five-minute mark on goals from Dryden Hunt (PPG) and Connor Zary.

Hvidston responded, collecting his first professional goal at 7:30 of the first to cut the deficit in half.

Josiah Slavin’s forecheck nullified a short pass from Dansk, leaving a loose puck making its way up the side boards. Hvidston pounced, skating into a heavy shot and beating the sliding Wranglers netminder for the milestone marker.

Groulx evened the game with a shorthanded goal with 5:26 left in the period.

Del Zotto started the play, skating the puck out of his own end and finding Kirkland at center ice. The wing continued it on to Del Zotto, who danced his way through several stick checks to break in 2-on-1. He laid a pass to Groulx, who collected the puck and whipped it past Dansk for the game-tying tally.

The shorthanded tally is Groulx’s fourth career shorthanded goal, tying Bryce Kindopp and Kiefer Sherwood for third among all-time Gulls AHL franchise leaders. The center owns 6-2=8 points over his last seven games and extended his career highs in goals and scoring to 18-20=38 points this season.

"I mean, it was just a great, great pass from Dels (Michael Del Zotto)," Groulx said. "I mean, it started off with Kirky (Justin Kirkland). Get a tough play to pass it to Dels. He was full speed and made a terrific pass to me. I had to shoot it pretty fast, and it worked out in my favor ,so I was pretty happy about that."

Phillips put the Wranglers ahead in the middle frame, collecting Calgary’s second power-play goal of the contest at 7:24 of the period. He finishes the season series with 7-3=10 points against the Gulls and continues to lead the AHL with 36 goals.

The Gulls continued their push well into the third period, peppering shots at Dansk and earning a power play near the end of regulation. With Alexander pulled, the team held a 6-on-4 advantage but failed to find the back of the net.

With the home portion of their schedule finished, the Gulls will close the regular season with a back-to-back series in Colorado against the Eagles starting Friday, Apr. 14.

"Yeah, I mean, we've been getting better since the All-Star Break, but again, it's just our consistency since the All-Star Break," Clarke said. "So, I mean, we just need to continue. We’ve got one more week left here before we head up into Denver, and we just want to make sure we continue to be consistent with our compete level and with making adjustments. It was a really good weekend for us." 

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