Kindopp Scores As Gulls Drop First Game In ColoradoApr 14, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls fell to the Colorado Eagles 4-1 tonight at Budweiser Events Center in the team’s penultimate game of the 2022-23 regular season.
Spencer Smallman and Charles Hudon eached recorded 1-1=2 points for the Eagles, who received 26 saves from goaltender Jonas Johansson in the win. The victory keeps them ahead of the Abbotsford Canucks as the teams battle for third place in the Pacific Division.
Bryce Kindopp scored the lone goal for the Gulls, who saw their losing streak reach a fourth game. Calle Clang turned in a solid performance, stopping 29 of 23 shots.
"I thought the first period was a little tough for us," Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke said. "It was seven minors called throughout the first period, and we just couldn't get our feet underneath us. In the second and third periods, we kind of got our feet underneath us, and I thought we played really well. Played with a lot of jam, had a lot of offensive punch. We just couldn't finish the deal. We had three (to) four odd-man rushes, couple 2-on-1s, couple breakaways. I mean, it was a good 40 minutes, but unfortunately, the first period kind of cost us."
Despite not seeing each other for over four months, the two teams brought the physical play early. It resulted in a Drew Helleson fight – the first of his American Hockey League career – just 2:35 into the game.
The scrap tilted the ice in Colorado’s favor, as they controlled play early. Hudon capitalized, sending a wrist shot off the glove of Clang and into the net for the lead at 4:35 of the opening frame.
Josh Lopina nearly found the equalizer on a shorthanded bid, streaking down the ice with Justin Kirkland. His hard shot got through the pads of Jonas Johansson, but it bounced just wide of the net. The Gulls survived a short 5-on-3 penalty following the play, as Kirkland sat for high-sticking.
The Eagles would strike on another power-play chance later in the period, with Spencer Smallman finishing off a high-pressure sequence for his 13th goal of the season.
"It's tough for the top-minute guys and the lower-minute guys," Kindopp explained. "The top-minute guys, they're going to get tired, penalty kill and power play. Then, when they have to be 5-on-5, they may not have as much energy. For the guys who don't play as much, you're kind of sitting on the bench, maybe not getting as much ice time or getting your legs into it as you want. It definitely kind of slows down the momentum, but it's part of hockey."
Michael Del Zotto came close to getting San Diego on the board early in the middle frame. The defenseman danced down from the point, toe dragging the puck through the Eagles and wiring a hard shot on net. He beat Johansson but found iron, seeing his attempt clank off the post and out.
Brent Gates Jr. had his chance later in the frame, splitting Colorado’s defense and heading in alone on Johansson. He went to his backhand, but the Eagles’ netminder met him there, sliding over with the pad to turn aside the chance.
Despite the Gulls carrying play throughout the middle period – San Diego finished with a 12-4 edge in shots – they failed to solve Johansson through 40 minutes.
"We talked about it in the locker room after the second," Helleson said. "We thought we could have got a lot more out of the period, that we maybe deserved better. Like I said, their goalie made some big saves, so we just got to bear down when we do get our chances tomorrow and put them in the back of the net."
The Eagles pushed their lead to three on a Sam Malinski tally early in the third period. The defenseman came down the wing, firing a shot that deflected off San Diego defenseman Andrej Sustr and past Clang.
Kindopp broke the scoreless stretch at the eight-minute mark of the period.
Gates Jr. started the play, sending a long pass up to a streaking Kindopp through the neutral zone. He took a few strides before laying into his attempt, sending his shot through the arm of Johansson for his sixth goal of the season.
Kindopp wasn't in the original lineup, only stepping in after Chase De Leo was a late scratch.
"Just shows, with that goal and the way Bryce plays today, it just shows you the type of character he has a player and as an individual," Clarke said. "He's had a tough go in the last three, four weeks, in and out of the lineup, and he's handled it just like a professional the whole way. Just love his work ethic and love his positivity when he's around the rink. Tonight, he gets in the lineup and is a very effective player for us, so was nice to see him score tonight."
A late push by San Diego couldn’t net them the tying goal, and the Eagles iced the game with an empty-net tally with 35 seconds left in regulation.
The team will finish the regular season tomorrow against the Eagles at 6:05 p.m. PT.
"Be focused from puck drop," Helleson said when asked about the key for tomorrow's game. "We got to be dialed in. They're a good team over there; they got home ice in the playoffs for a reason. We got to be ready tomorrow and come out strong."