PREVIEW: Gulls, Eagles Meet For First Time This SeasonFeb 13, 2021
The San Diego Gulls look to continue their hot start to the season, opening a back-to-back set of contests against the Colorado Eagles tonight at FivePoint Arena at Great Park Ice. San Diego posted a 4-1-0-0 record against Colorado last season, including a 3-0-0-0 mark on home ice.
The Gulls matched a franchise-record with a 3-0-0-0 start to the season (also 2015-16) after two wins over Bakersfield and Wednesday’s victory against Ontario.
A key component of San Diego’s early success is the work of its penalty kill, which killed 11 consecutive power plays through three games, the longest season-opening streak in club history. The Gulls are the only team in the AHL to kill more than six penalties without conceding a power-play goal.
“It’s just guys stepping up and realizing the position we’re in,” said Gulls defenseman Josh Mahura. “I think a lot of times, in pro hockey especially, games don’t go your way the whole time but at the end of the day as long as you can bear down when the times come, you can come out with a win.”
Successful penalty killing requires good goaltending, and San Diego has surely received that early in this season. Rookie netminder Lukas Dostal leads the league in saves (109), is tied for the league lead in wins (3) and sits top five in save percentage (.956, min. 2 GP) and goals against average (1.67, min. 2 GP).
“He’s definitely been an incredible security blanket,” said Mahura. “When you got one of the better goalies in the league and he’s playing like he is right now, it gives us a lot better of a chance to win every night.”
Dostal already set and matched several club records through his first three starts. The Brno, Czech Republic native became the youngest goaltender in club history to earn a win (20 years, 7 months, 14 days) and just the third to win each of his first three starts with the clubs. Dostal is coming off 40-save games.
“My favorite part about Lukas is how he competes,” said Gulls netminder Jeff Glass. “I think anyone who watches him can see his composure in the net. He’s an unbelievably composed guy in the net. Nothing rattles him. Guys loving playing in front of guys like that and coaches love coaching guys like that. But if there is a loose puck in front of the net, he’s going to be the first guy to go after it. To me, those are skills you can’t teach.”
Offensively, San Diego powered forward by the work of its top line, with Chase De Leo and Trevor Zegras among the AHL leaders in scoring and plus/minus. Zegras earned CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors after scoring 2-3=5 points in his first two games. De Leo leads the AHL in shots (16) and co-leads in plus/minus (+5).
The two-game series represents the first action for Colorado this season, the team’s first regular season game in 340 days. Colorado’s roster features plenty of new faces, as 18 Eagles will make their team debuts this weekend, including NHL veterans forward Miikka Salamaki and defenseman Greg Pateryn.
The Eagles also return first-round picks Shane Bowers and Martin Kaut. The two teams will play a six-game season series, including San Diego’s final three contests of the regular season.