Gulls Drop Final Game Before All-Star BreakFeb 4, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls entered the American Hockey League’s All-Star Classic on a loss, falling 4-0 to the Coachella Valley Firebirds tonight at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert.
Max McCormick (2-1=3) and Jesper Froden (1-2=3) each recorded three-point games to help the Firebirds maintain their spot among the league’s best teams. Christopher Gibson stopped 21 shots for his second shutout of the season.
"That team skates really well over there and they hunt pucks, and they play a really fast game with a lot of pace, and if you're not moving your feet, you're chasing, and we took a lot of stick penalties tonight in result of that," Gulls assistant coach Kris Sparre said. "It's unfortunate, but we'll be looking to solve that moving forward."
Coachella Valley flew out of the gates, scoring thrice in the first 6:44 of regulation to build a multi-goal lead.
Austin Poganski opened the scoring at 3:28 of the first, converting on chance at the top of the crease for his sixth goal of the season. McCormack and Froden (PP) would each find the back of the net over the next three-plus minutes, giving the Firebirds an insurmountable multi-goal lead.
McCormack added on in the middle period, scoring on the power play for Coachella Valley's fourth and final goal of the game.
"A lot of penalties," Sparre said. "You know, a lot of our top players played a lot of minutes tonight. Back-to-back nights. I think we ran out of gas."
San Diego finished the game allowing a season-high eight power plays. The special teams unit stayed strong, allowing just two Coachella tallies on those man-advantage opportunities. Overall, the Gulls killed 11-of-13 (84.6%) of the Firebirds’ power-play opportunities during their weekend series. San Diego’s penalty kill on the road is operating at 82.7 % success rate, second in the AHL’s Pacific Division, sixth in the Western Conference and 11th in the league.
Overall, the Gulls rank fourth in the Pacific Division, seventh in the Western Conference and tied for 12th in the AHL with an 81.2% kill rate.
Lukas Dostal, who stopped 27-of-31 shots in the loss, will head to Laval to participate in the league’s 2023 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Bell in collaboration with Manulife Bank. The goaltender will hit the ice tomorrow during the Rona AHL All-Star Skills Competition, starting at Place Bell at 3 p.m. PT.
For his teammates, Sparre feels the break is coming at the right time.
"I think it's good," he said. "You know, we haven't had the success that we wanted to have in the first part of this year. To get these guys a mental break, away from the rink, come back with a lot of fire because at the end of the day, we're still chasing a playoff spot. We believe we can do it. We gotta get on a bit of a run here though."