Rocky Mountain Matchup

Gulls Open Three-Game Series With Eagles Tonight

May 11, 2021

The San Diego Gulls head to Colorado to wrap up the 2020-21 regular season with a three-game series against the Eagles beginning tonight at Budweiser Events Center (6:05 p.m.; TV: AHLTV; Radio: Gulls Audio Network).

San Diego enters the final weekend of the regular season sitting third in the Pacific Division by point percentage (.598) behind the Henderson Silver Knights (.657) and the Bakersfield Condors (.625). The Condors and Silver Knights play each other in a three-game series to end their respective seasons, which could heavily impact who the Gulls will play in the first-round series of the division's playoffs.

“There’s still a lot on the line, even for standings points,” said Gulls assistant coach David Urquhart. “The way the playoffs stack up, the home team plays those extra games, so you want to finish a spot ahead of those other teams so you can play those home games.”

The Gulls lead the American Hockey League in home wins (15), points (31) and goals scored (82), so home ice could be the difference in the postseason.

“We want to be in the friendly confines here at Great Park,” Urquhart added. “The early we can get into that playoff mindset, the better it’ll serve us when the playoffs start.”

The Gulls and Eagles renew acquaintances after a three-month hiatus in the six-game season series. San Diego won all three meetings with Colorado back in February at FivePoint Arena. Vinni Lettieri led all skaters in scoring (3-3=6) with three consecutive multi-point efforts.

After dropping a tough contest with the Ontario Reign Friday, the Gulls earned a bounce back win Saturday over the Condors and will look to bring that momentum with them to Colorado.

“We have to build off our last game in Bakersfield,” said forward Bryce Kindopp. “Obviously, Colorado is a good team so we’ll have to play simple and hard. Get pucks deep. Go to the net and be good in the defensive zone. Do all the little things right and I think we’ll succeed.”

Three San Diego rookies - Kindopp, Alex Limoges and Benoit-Olivier Groulx - continued to produce on both sides of the ice, with Limoges scoring twice to power San Diego offensively. The trio also played a critical defensive role in the third period, helping the Gulls protect a narrow lead.

“It gives you a lot of confidence playing against other team's top lines,” said Kindopp. “You’re playing against top players and trying to shut them down. It definitely makes you feel good, trying to lead the way a little bit as a rookie, especially when some of our older guys get called up.”

“It’s three guys with high hockey IQ and when you put them together, they really gel well,” Urquhart explained. “They’re guys you can play against anyone in the other team’s lineup and they’ll do a good job at it.”

Colorado hosts San Diego ranked fifth in the Pacific Division (.500), narrowly behind fourth place San Jose (.514). The Eagles struggled on home ice lately, losing three straight games (0-3-0-0) and getting outscored 12-7 in the process.

The Gulls will focus on staying out of the penalty box and playing the game 5-on-5 as much as possible. Colorado excels on special teams, boasting the league’s top penalty killing unit (92-for-108, 85.2%) as well the fifth-best power-play group (25-for-106, 23.6%).

“They’ve had a lot of success lately down the stretch,” Urquhart said. “They’ve really ramped up their game. Their special teams are outstanding, both sides of the puck. Their penalty kill and power play have been really hot down the stretch. That’s an important aspect, staying out of the box.”

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