PREVIEW: Gulls Host Firebirds For First Time On Hockey Fights Cancer NightNov 26, 2022
By Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls host the Coachella Valley Firebirds in their inaugural clash at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network). The Gulls are also hosting Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
The Gulls will don a special lavender jersey for Hockey Fights Cancer™ throughout the game. Select game-worn player jerseys will be autographed and available for a jersey raffle both in arena and online. For more information and to participate in the online fundraisers, please visit sandiegogulls.com/auction or text HOCKEYFIGHTS to 76278. All proceeds raised will be donated to American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Coachella Valley visits San Diego for the first time ever to kick off an eight-game season series. The Gulls enter the game looking to find their offensive touch after only scoring one goal in their last game. Gulls left winger Evan Weinger spoke to how the team is trying to convert on their chances.
"Get pucks to the net and create havoc in front," Weinger said. "I mean, they're not going in right now. So we got to make sure we work a little harder to stay in front of the net and whack in those. Get some greasy goals."
Gulls center Benoit-Olivier Groulx is helping lead the way offensively for San Diego. He has three points through his last three games. His recent offensive production moved him into second place on the Gulls with 5-10=15 points. Gulls defenseman Olli Juolevi finds himself moving up in the scoring rankings too. He is riding a three-game point streak, with five assists in that time span.
Coachella Valley also enters the game with players riding the hot hand. Coachella Valley center Andrew Poturalski sits tied for third in points in the American Hockey League with 5-17=23 as of Nov. 25, 2022. The former Gull is also on a seven-game point streak, showcasing his playmaking ability with 10 assists in this stretch. Additionally, Firebirds defenseman and former Gull Brogan Rafferty is leading the charge on the back end with three assists in his last two games. The Firebirds also gained 2022 NHL Entry Draft fourth overall pick, Shane Wright on an AHL conditioning loan from the Seattle Kraken.
"I mean, they've got a wagon of a bunch of forwards up there, right? They can- they got a lot of offensive power there," Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke said in regards to the offensive abilities of the Firebirds. "So I think the big thing for us is that we're going to really have to be able to make sure that we're coming back into our own end and making sure that we're supporting the puck and getting those little dink plays and, you know, supporting as a unified getting out of our end and if we can come in to our end as a unit of five and make those little dink plays."
The Gulls' defense will need to be prepared for tonight’s game. Coachella Valley leads the Pacific Division in goals with 51. This, combined with their 23.9 power play percentage (PP%), will test the recently strong play of the Gulls' defense. Luckily for the Gulls, Lukas Dostal continues to be lights out between the pipes. Over his last 10 games, he recorded a 2.16 goals-against average (GAA) and a .936 save percentage (SV%). His play has helped the team’s penalty kill sit at the top of the league, ranking fifth at 84.8%.
"It's a little frustrating, but you don't want to get over your head on it," Weinger said on the team’s recent play. "So I mean, stick with it. It will eventually go in. So, just keep whacking away, and I wouldn't stress about it too early."