Gulls Fall To Firebirds

Gulls Fall In Sunday Matinee At Coachella

Mar 19, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

The San Diego Gulls fell to the Coachella Valley Firebirds 8-4 in today’s matinee matchup at Acrisure Arena.

Former Gull Brogan Rafferty recorded 2-1=3 points – including his first multi-goal game of the season – and highlighted the offense for the Firebirds, who received multi-point performances from eight players to extend their win streak to four games. They’ve posted 20 goals over that stretch and now sit two points back of the Calgary Wranglers for first in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

Dylan Sikura scored twice, hitting 200 career American Hockey League points, as the team dropped the second game of a weekend back-to-back series. Chase De Leo added 2-1=3 points while Nikolas Brouillard and Chase Priskie recorded two assists. Jacob Slavin scored his seventh goal of the season.

Sikura opened the scoring in the first period, collecting his 15th goal of the season at 1:10 of the frame.

San Diego’s forecheck went to work in the offensive zone, pressuring Coachella Valley goaltender Chris Driedger as he played the puck behind the net. De Leo dug the puck out of a scrum and found Sikura, who wired it into an empty cage to put the Gulls ahead.

The Firebirds found their response nearly six minutes later, with former Gulls defenseman Brogan Rafferty beating Eriksson Ek.

Tensions boiled over shortly after, with Luka Profaca and Coachella’s Eddie Wittchow dropping the gloves at center ice. The bout, short in length, cost San Diego a defenseman, as Profaca received a game misconduct penalty for failing to tie down his jersey prior to the altercation.

Things stayed hot to start the second period, with the teams scoring thrice in the first two minutes.

Cameron Hughes gave the Firebirds a brief one-goal lead, netting a power-play goal just 22 seconds after the period started.

Slavin struck back 1:08 later, evening the score at two.

San Diego’s forecheck once again played a prominent role, as pressure in the offensive zone caused a turnover at the side boards. Slavin pulled the puck off the wall and cut to the slot, sending a backhand past Driedger.

Sikura struck again, giving the Gulls their second lead of the game with a power-play goal just 26 seconds after the Slavin score.

Sikura and Nikolas Brouillard moved the puck between them, with the defenseman eventually feathering a pass to the Gulls’ forward. Sikura’s one-timed shot from the circle beat Driedger low to the glove side for his 17th goal of the season.

Momentum swung toward Coachella and they capitalized, with Rafferty (PPG) and Alexander True putting the Firebirds back in the lead after 40 minutes.

Kole Lind (PPG), Carsen Twarynski and Ty Kartye extended Coachella’s lead in the third period, scoring three times before the seven-minute mark of the frame to push the Firebirds lead to four.

Eriksson Ek would not finish the game, leaving with an injury with under eight minutes left in regulation. Gage Alexander came on in relief, stopping two of three shots over the remainder of the game.

The teams continued to find the back of the net, with Twarynski netting Coachella’s eighth goal of the game with 6:37 remaining in regulation.

De Leo grabbed his eighth goal of the season on the power play with over five minutes left in the game.

Priskie and Brouillard moved the puck high in the offensive zone, with the latter firing a shot toward the net. Gawdin deflected the puck, sending it past Driedger for San Diego’s second power-play tally of the game.

De Leo stretched his point and assist streaks to three games. He’s collected 1-5=6 points over that stretch and finished the game with 8-11=19 points in his last 13 games. Since his return to the lineup on Feb. 18, De Leo leads the Gulls in all scoring categories.

Priskie, who joined the organization on Mar. 3, extended his point streak to a fifth game. The blueliner has 4-2=6 points over that span, nearly equaling the nine points he earned in 42 games with the Rochester Americans earlier this season.

With the season series against Coachella in their rearview mirror, San Diego will travel home to host the Iowa Wild on Tuesday, Mar. 21.

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