Gulls Close Decade In TucsonDec 31, 2019
The Gulls conclude their 2019 calendar year schedule tonight against the Pacific Divsiion’s top team when the visit the Tucson Roadrunners at Tucson Arena (5:05 p.m. PT, TV: AHLTV, Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network). The Gulls are playing their final game of the decade and come into the contest with an all-time record of 166-107-17-9, including 88-51-8-4 at home and 78-56-9-5 on the road, to lead the Pacific Division in all-time wins, points (358) and points percentage (.599%) since the division’s inception in 2015-16.
San Diego enters tonight’s game with points in three straight games bookending the league’s holiday break, posting a 2-0-1-0 record following a 3-2 overtime loss last Saturday to Ontario. The team had earned back-to-back wins Dec. 21 vs. Stockton (4-3, shootout) and Dec. 27 at Ontario (6-1). The club also have points in seven of the last 10 contests (5-3-1-1) and 11 of their last 16 overall (8-5-2-1). An improved offense has catapulted the Gulls to their recent success. San Diego has scored 58 goals the last 17 games (3.4 goals-per game) in addition to 76 goals the last 21 games (3.6 goals-per game).
Tonight is the second meeting between the two clubs in an eight-game season series, with the Gulls picking up a 6-2 win Nov. 30 to push their point streak against the Roadrunners to four straight games dating to last season (3-0-1-0).
“I think last time we played them it wasn’t their best effort, but we were happy with the way we played,” said defenseman Chris Wideman. “We have points in six of the last eight games, so we’re doing a lot of really good things. They’re definitely a team we’re chasing and a team we need to play really well against.”
A new face that could join tonight’s lineup is center Chris Meuller, who the Anaheim Ducks acquired last night in exchange for defenseman Patrick Sieloff. The 33-year old forward collected 11-12=23 points and 24 PIM in 31 games with the Syracuse Crunch at the time of his acquisition, co-leading the club in power-play goals (5), and ranking second in scoring and tied for second in goals.
Mueller has scored 223-317=550 points in 742 career AHL games, and is a familiar face to Gulls fans as he led San Diego in goals (20) and power-play goals (8), and co-led in scoring (57) in the club’s inaugural AHL season in 2015-16.
“I think the guys that have come in, whether up or down, have come in with a great attitude,” said Wideman on the flurry of roster moves of late. “We have a great room here, good leadership group and the young guys have done a good job stepping up and playing well.”
“They’re preaching the same message and everyone is buying in,” noted Hunter Drew on the coaching staff getting everyone in the locker on the same page. “We obviously want to play for those guys, for ourselves. It’s a tight group. No matter who is here, or who isn’t, we’re battling together.”
The Gulls are 18-12-2-1 vs. the Roadrunners all-time, including 10-6-1-0 at Tucson Arena (8-6-1-1 at home). San Diego has outscored Tucson 122-105 all-time, posting 3.7 goals-per game in 33 all-time matchups. The Gulls power-play has also produced at a 22.9% mark all-time (31-for-135). Corey Tropp paces all Gulls skaters in career scoring (12-19=31), goals and assists vs. Tucson in 27 games.
Tucson sits atop the Pacific Division and second in the Western Conference with a 23-7-0-0 record and 46 points, but has suffered back-to-back home losses to the Colorado Eagles last weekend, respective 4-3 and 4-1 setbacks last Friday and Saturday. Prior to falling in those contests, the Roadrunners had reeled off a club record eight straight wins following their setback to San Diego to close out November.
Those eight wins helped Roadrunners Head Coach Jay Varady solidified his spot behind the bench for the group at the AHL All-Star Classic, which will take place January 26-27 in Ontario.
Tucson’s Lane Pederson scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season Saturday vs. Colorado as the forward now ranks tied for fifth among AHL goal-scoring leaders. Rookie goaltender Ivan Prosvetov (9-3-0) ranks second in the AHL with a .935 save percentage and seventh with a 2.24 goals against average, leading in both categories among first-year netminders.
“They’re a fast team, they move the puck really well,” said blueliner Hunter Drew. “They’re good from front to back, but we’re good too. We’re going to keep up the pressure.”