Gulls Earn Weekend Split in IowaFeb 15, 2020
The Gulls defeated the Iowa Wild 5-2 tonight at Wells Fargo Arena, snapping Iowa’s eight-game win streak, 10-game home win streak and 11 straight games with a point.
“We had a game plan tonight and we really stuck with it,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “We were playing a really good hockey team, they’ve been the hottest team by far, maybe in hockey since Christmas the way they’re rolling right now. We played a very simple game and I think that’s encouraging when you do that and have success with it. Certainly a hard-earned two points.”
With the win, San Diego has earned points in eight of their last nine games (6-1-2-0), 13 of their last 15 contests (11-2-2-0) and 17 of their last 22 overall (13-5-3-1). The Gulls also improved to 5-1-1-0 their last seven road contests and 10-5-1-0 the last 16 away from home.
San Diego’s special teams effort was nearly perfect, scoring two goals on the man advantage and negating all five of Iowa’s power-play chances. Over their last 17 games, the Gulls have killed 63 of their last 72 penalties (87.5%) and own the third best road penalty kill in the AHL in that span (67-for-79, 84.8%).
“I think there was enough enthusiasm out there and it looked like they had a little confidence after a tough night last night,” said Dineen of the power play unit.” A great rebound by the power play.”
The Gulls defense contributed a goal and four assists on the night, as Chris Wideman recorded three primary assists, and Simon Benoit adding a goal and assist for his second career multi-point game. Daniel Sprong, Isac Lundestrom, Blake Pietila and Max Comtois rounding out San Diego’s goals.
“You don’t always count on the D producing like they did tonight, but when they do, I wouldn’t call it a bonus, that’s part of the game plan,” said Dineen. “When our D are involved and engaged in the play offensively, I think things tend to go a little easier and it gives the forwards another option with the puck, so those guys did a really solid job.”
Kevin Boyle stopped 29-of-31 shots to improve to 3-1-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average (GAA) and .928 save percentage (SV%) his last five games.
The Wild opened the scoring when center Luke Johnson picked up his 11th goal 11:01 into the first frame, firing a high shot short side on Boyle for a 1-0 lead.
San Diego drew two penalties towards the end of the first period, giving them 74 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play. The Wild were able to hold the Gulls scoreless through the two-man advantage, but Sprong tied the game seconds after the first penalty expired, rifling home a one-timer on a cross-ice pass from Wideman with 1:58 remaining in the period.
With the power-play goal, Sprong has recorded 4-5=9 points his last 11 games and 7-9=16 his last 18 games. Wideman has anchored the power-play unit, picking up his team-leading 11th power-play point (5-6=11) of the campaign.
A string of penalties taken by San Diego to start the second period awarded Iowa three power-play chances, including 1:53 of a two-man advantage. The Gulls kept defensemen Simon Benoit and Jani Hakanpaa on the ice for the entirety of the two-man advantage as San Diego kept Iowa off the scoreboard during all three power plays.
“Wow, (Jani Hakanpaa), that’s a performance for the ages,” said Dineen. “Boy did he make a statement. Sometimes you see highlight plays, you see guys scoring beautiful goals and see some things on YouTube, but if you like hockey you like that 5-on-3 and you like big No. 2 out there. He was all over the ice. It was a monster effort by him.”
The Gulls took their first lead of the game with 2:41 remaining in the second period as Isac Lundestrom finished off a stellar passing play. Sprong began the play by dumping the puck behind the Iowa net, Chris Mueller got to the puck first and sent the puck between his legs and to the slot as two Wild defensemen were closing in on him. Wideman collected the puck and set it up for Lundestrom to beat Iowa netminder Mat Robson glove side.
Pietila nearly scored during a scrum in front of the net, but after an extended review, it was deemed no goal. Shortly after the review, Pietila tapped the puck under Robson and into the net on a play that wouldn’t be overturned for his 10th of the season. Wideman’s initial shot created the eventual game-winning goal 5:26 into the third and final period, giving him his third primary assist of the night. Simon Benoit also picked up an assist on the play.
It took just 25 seconds for the Gulls to add another to the scoresheet as Benoit added a goal of his own for the second point of his shift. Although he wouldn’t receive an assist for it, Kiefer Sherwood threw a hit that forced a turnover in the Wild zone and Alex Broadhurst took the puck and sent it across the slot for Benoit to snap in his fourth of the season to give him five points his last five games (2-3=5). Broadhurst picked up his second point (1-1=2) over the last three games with the lone assist on the play.
Iowa right wing Dmitry Sokolov cleaned up a loose puck in the crease to make the score 4-2 with 2:49 remaining in the game but it would be the Wild’s final goal. When the Wild pulled Robson for the extra attacker, Comtois corralled a missed shot that went off the net and flung it down the ice into the empty net to seal the win with 71 seconds left in regulation. The goal marked his second of the season and his ninth point his last 13 games (2-7=9).
The Gulls closed out their eight-game season schedule against the Central Division with a 3-3-1-1 record, picking up points in five of the eight contests. After five seasons against Central opponents, the Gulls have posted a 29-11-5-1 record, the highest points percentage (.696) among Pacific Division Clubs when facing the Central.
San Diego will conclude the three-game road trip on Monday, Feb. 17 against the Stockton Heat at Stockton Arena (1 p.m. PT).