Gulls Burn Out Against Firebirds

Third Period Woes Burn San Diego In First Visit To Coachella Valley

Jan 22, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

The San Diego Gulls fell to the Coachella Valley Firebirds in their first visit to Acrisure Arena, dropping a 4-2 decision this afternoon in Palm Desert.

Tye Kartye (1-1=2) and Jimmy Schuldt (0-2=2) led the way with multi-point efforts for the Firebirds, who turned a one-goal deficit after two periods into their fifth consecutive win. Coachella Valley also improved their league-leading points streak to 13 games, jumping the idle Hershey Bears to claim the top spot in the American Hockey League standings.

Pavol Regenda and Glenn Gawdin scored for the Gulls, who saw their losing streak reach five games. Olle Eriksson Ek made 24 saves on 28 shots.

San Diego made themselves right at home in the AHL’s newest arena as Regenda collected the Gulls’ first goal in Coachella Valley just 1:26 into the game.

Nikolas Brouillard’s aggressive forecheck at the point forced a turnover, with the defenseman pinching down the boards to win a puck battle. Regenda came away from the scrum with the puck and darted toward the net, sending a backhand shot over the glove of Coachella Valley netminder Christopher Gibson for his ninth goal of the season.

Brouillard continues to lead the Gulls with 24 assists. He ended the game tied for third in points (6-24=30) and fifth in assists among league defensemen.

The tally ignited the physical game, with Travis Howe and Eddie Wittchow dropping the gloves just over a minute after the Gulls found the back of the net. The heavyweight matchup is a revenge bout for San Diego, as a hit from Wittchow earlier in the season injured defenseman Axel Andersson. Howe won the fight decisively, delivering several punches before turning to his bench and giving a thumbs-up to his teammates.

Dmitry Osipov would get in on the action later in the period. Luka Profaca stood up Coachella Valley’s Luke Henman, drawing the ire of Ian McKinnon. Osipov stepped in for his teammate, landing the first few punches. Eventually both threw caution to the wind, with Ospiov landing several well-placed rights to end the fight.

After searching for better starts over their last four games, the Gulls found the right formula. They ended the opening frame with a slight edge in shots, dictating play for large stretches and keeping the Firebirds on their heels.

Coachella Valley flipped the script in the middle frame. Early power plays helped them re-establish their offense, and a costly turnover by Profaca helped the Firebirds tie the game. The defenseman misplayed an outlet pass in his own zone, putting the puck on Kartye’s stick. He wasted no time putting a shot on net, wiring the puck past Eriksson Ek for his seventh goal of the season.

The Gulls struck next, using their physical play and strong defensive pressure to take a one-goal lead.

Regenda began the play in his own zone, closing in on former Gull Brogan Rafferty and interrupting a point-to-point pass at the blue line. His hit took the defenseman out of the play as Gawdin stripped Wittchow of the puck. He darted up the wing, protecting the puck from a stick swing of Wittchow and firing a quick shot on Gibson. The Coachella Valley goaltender made the initial save and Gawdin followed up, knocking the rebound out of the air and into the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season.

Coachella Valley’s high-powered offense came out determined to start the third period, scoring three times in the first 8:41 of the period for the come-from-behind win.

The first came from Kole Lind, who tied the game at 2:54 of the period with a deflection from in tight. Eriksson Ek made the initial save, but the puck squeaked through him and over the goal line for his 16th goal of the season.

Jesper Froden gave the Firebirds their first lead at 3:19 of the final frame, converting on a 2-on-1 chance with Max McCormick to collect his team-leading 22nd goal of the season. The tally marks his fifth against San Diego and puts him second in the AHL, trailing Calgary’s Matthew Phillips by just one goal.

Cameron Hughes followed up with his fifth goal of the season, finishing off a 3-on-1 rush to give Coachella an insurance marker.

The Gulls will return home to open a four-game homestand on Wednesday, Jan. 25 against the Bakersfield Condors. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. PT.

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