Preview: Gulls Start Road Trip Hungry For More Against WolvesDec 2, 2023
By Nick Aguilera/SanDiegoGulls.com
After earning standings points in back-to-back games to end a three-game homestand, the San Diego Gulls are headed to the Midwest for five-game road trip beginning tonight.
"This will be fun," head coach Matt McIlvane said. "It's just us. We're on the road, and we get to go spend some time together, play some great opponents, new opponents in some cases, and keep building on our progress."
The Gulls’ first stop is a rematch with the Chicago Wolves tonight at Allstate Arena (5 p.m. PST). The two teams last faced off a week ago, a 3-1 San Diego win on Saturday, Nov. 25 at Pechanga Arena San Diego where goaltender Tomas Suchanek earned his first career AHL victory in his AHL debut.
Chase De Leo has been on fire since his return from injury, posting 1-3=4 points in two games, including a three-point night Nov. 29 against Texas (1-2=3). De Leo earned his 142nd point in a Gulls sweater against Texas, moving him into third place on the Gulls all-time AHL points leaderboard.
"I think anytime you get recognition is huge and a lot of work," De Leo said. "A lot of time goes into this. You know, my family sacrificed everything. It’s not easy coming from California and making it to this level, so I owe everything to them and obviously, my main goal is to get back to winning playoff hockey and doing whatever I can to get the team back there."
Tonight marks the first time San Diego has visited the Windy City since the 2017-18 season. It also marks homecomings for McIlvane, who is from nearby Naperville, Ill., and center Josh Lopina, who grew up in Minooka, Ill. and played for the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks.
Lopina enters the hometown battle on his first professional goal streak with goals in back-to-back contests (2-1=3). He also posted the first multi-point game of his professional career against Texas (1-1=2).
A couple of other young Gulls had career nights on Wednesday night as well. Ben King netted two goals, his first professional multi-goal game (2-0=2), and Nikita Nesterenko collected an AHL career-high 1-2=3 points, his first professional multi-assist game. Drew Helleson added two assists from the blue line (0-2=2), his first multi-assist effort of the season and second in his AHL career.
"I thought we had a lot of guys who played well [on Wednesday]," McIlvane said. "Credit to all those guys you just mentioned on their individual stuff, but I thought our team game was pretty strong… I think that there's been a lot of guys putting in a lot of work and it's nice to see some progress."
It'll be a quick turnaround for the Gulls this weekend, as they’ll wrap up their four-game season series against the Wolves tomorrow afternoon (1 p.m. PST) before heading north to Milwaukee for a midweek matchup with the Admirals on Wednesday, Dec. 6 (5 p.m. PST).