Gulls Earn Point in Shootout Loss

Gulls Earn Point in Shootout Loss

Dec 17, 2019

The Gulls opened a three-game homestand with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Alex Broadhurst and Daniel Sprong netted goals for San Diego and Anthony Stolarz recorded a season-high 40 saves, but Jimmy Howard stopped all three of San Diego’s attempts in the shootout to secure the victory for Grand Rapids.

“He has a level of composure, he is a big guy and he looks big in net,” head coach Kevin Dineen said about Stolarz. “You have some goalies that are big, but you end up seeing some holes in them. He has a level of composure of his game that our team thrives on and he’s played a solid brand of hockey for us.”

The Griffins got on the scoreboard first with 45 seconds remaining in the first period. Still with the man-advantage following a Broadhurst high-sticking penalty, defenseman Dennis Cholowski wristed the puck toward Tangradi, who was open to Stolarz’s right. He tipped the puck into the net to give Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

“They have a big, physical team, a lot of big guys up front,” said Stolarz about the Griffins playing style. “They like to get guys in front and work the puck from low to high and take shots. When you have a team like that, it gets you running around a little bit.”

The Gulls evened the score with a shorthanded goal, as Broadhurst scored 49 seconds into the second period. Stolarz made a save and allowed a rebound to the Griffins, but the pass to the point was intercepted by Antoine Morand and the Gulls darted down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush. Morand sent a backhanded pass to the front of the net and Broadhurst got his stick on the puck, directing it into the net.

The score marked Broadhurst’s third shorthanded tally of the season and the fourth of his career. With the goal, Broadhurst tied the club record for shorthanded goals in a season, set three previous times (Sam Carrick, 2018-19; Chris Wagner and Jordan Samuels-Thomas, 2016-17).

The Gulls currently lead the Western Conference with nine shorthanded goals and rank second among AHL leaders, trailing the Providence Bruins, who have scored 10 in eight more games than San Diego.

“We have a lot of pride in that. It wins and loses games in this league, the penalty kill and power play,” said Broadhurst regarding the Gulls shorthanded success this season. “We work hard at it. There’s a lot of changes sometimes with different teams with different matchups, but it’s been a great job by our penalty kill guys. You have to tip the cap to them and hope we can keep getting goals.”

Despite Stolarz’s solid effort, the Griffins regained the lead 7:18 into the middle stanza. Simon Benoit was called for holding 5:50 into the period, sending the Griffins on another power play. Joe Veleno carried the puck into the Gulls zone before passing it to Evgeny Svechnikov, and the left wing wristed the puck over Stolarz’s glove and off the cross bar to push the score to 2-1.

The Gulls tied the game at two when Sprong scored 6:33 into the third period. The right wing fought his way through the Griffins defense and put a shot on goal, but was denied by Howard. Sprong picked up the rebound, avoiding the Grand Rapids goaltender’s attempt to corral the puck, and deposited the puck into the net. Josh Mahura added the lone assist on the score.

“Controlling the first rebound and not letting anything get away from me and if it did then the guys were right there to clean it up for me,” said Stolarz about what worked best for him. “It felt like I was in the zone, and I’m just trying to match the guy down at the other end. Howard has a plethora of experience and he’s a very good goalie. So going into tonight, I knew I had to be sharp.”

In the first minute of overtime, just 15 seconds separated a pair of posts being hit, one by the Griffins and the second by the Gulls. After five minutes of extra time, the Gulls outshot the Griffins 3-2 but neither team got the puck to the back of the net, pushing the game into a shootout.

Grand Rapids capitalized on their second shootout attempt, scoring the only goal of the skills competition. Hirose skated in and the puck squeezed through Stolarz for the goal.

“Points are huge, obviously, the start we had this year dug us into a hole and now we have to climb out of it if we want to be a competitive team and be in the hunt,” said Broadhurst. “It’s great to see that we have the resiliency to battle back and not let an early lead get us down. From here on out, we have to keep the mentality that no matter what the score is, we’re always in it.”

The Gulls continue their homestand Friday when they host the San Jose Barracuda at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m.).

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