Sleighin It

Gulls Enter Holiday Break With Crucial Win

Jack Kopacka's first three-point game helps San Diego cool Stockton Heat

Dec 21, 2019

Jack Kopacka scored two goals, added an assist and sealed the win in the shootout to give them Gulls a 4-3 shootout win over the Stockton Heat at Pechanga Arena.


With the win, the Gulls have picked up points in five of their last eight contests (4-3-0-1). In addition, San Diego has scored three power-play goals the last two games (3-8, 37.5%). Goaltender Kevin Boyle recorded 24 saves and stopped both shootout attempts to earn his second win of the season.


“I loved our first period,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “They obviously are a good team, they’re on top of our division. They pushed back hard. What was really nice, was to see the response we had at the end of the game. There wasn’t a lot of frazzle on the bench, they stayed with their focus and everybody contributed. You play a team game and that was a team win.”


Kopacka’s career night marked the first three-point game for the second-year player as he has tallied 4-2=6 points in five appearances this season.


“Jack (Kopacka), I think like every player, looks for opportunities,” Dineen said. “You’re looking for a chance to show what you can do in the lineup. There’s not a pecking order. There are guys that are put in roles and when opportunity arises, we rise to the occasion and certainly Kopacka did that tonight.”


Left wing Brett Pollock, who the Gulls signed to a professional tryout (PTO) prior to the game, made an immediate impact with San Diego. The Regina, Saskatchewan native recorded the lone assist on the game’s first goal and added another helper later in the first. Pollock’s two points marked his first multi-point game since 2017-18 while with Stockton.


Tensions flared early when Corey Tropp and Alex Gallant dropped the gloves in the neutral zone just 3:11 into the game. Heat center Alex Quine skated the puck into the San Diego zone as Tropp and Gallant exchanged words before the two forwards engaged in extracurriculars. After Tropp brought Gallant to the ice, the referees broke up the scrap before each player was given a five-minute fighting major.


San Diego used the momentum from the fight to gain the first score of the game on a rebound goal by Kopacka with 13:40 left in the first period. Pollock put a shot toward Jon Gillies, who made a kick save, but the puck found its way to Kopacka who slammed the puck home.


The Gulls extended the lead to 2-0 with 7:12 left in the opening frame on a slap shot by Chris Wideman. Kopacka entered the Stockton zone, but waited for reinforcements from his defensemen that were changing lines and once the change was completed, Kopacka slid the puck to Wideman who promptly fired a one-timer from the point past Gillies. Pollock also picked up an assist on the play to mark his second of the game.


Tropp and Gallant had their second bout of the night, dropping the gloves once again, this time with 6:51 remaining in the opening frame. Both were assessed five-minute fighting majors and game misconducts as their nights ended early for their respective second fighting majors.


The Heat got on the scoreboard with 1:09 remaining in the middle stanza when Glenn Gawdin pushed the puck into the net. Rob Hamilton found Zac Leslie from the point with the latter’s shot getting past Boyle, but hitting the post. The Gulls were unable to get to the puck before Gawdin tapped it in to cut the score to 2-1.


Stockton knotted the score at two 4:45 into the final frame on a broken play where Matthew Phillips avoided a poke check by Boyle and slid the puck into the net. Froese passed the puck from the corner to Austin Czarnik, who sent a wrist shot towards the net that was blocked by the Gulls. The puck squeezed through the defenders and dropped to the stick of Phillips before he tied the game.


San Diego’s Alex Dostie was sent to the box on a hooking call 9:47 into the final frame. Stockton capitalized on the power-play opportunity to get the go-ahead goal when Czarnik skated the puck to the top of the circle and fired it over Boyle’s glove for the score.


“There was definitely no panic on the bench,” Kopacka said. “We just stuck with it, we know we don’t have another game to play, we know we have a few days off. We just emptied the tank and that’s all we focused on.”


The Gulls were given another power play with 6:39 remaining in the final period when Leslie was sent to the box for interference. San Diego cashed in on the opportunity when Kopacka scored his second goal of the night with 5:04 left. Josh Mahura shot the puck from the point and Gillies came up with the save. A scrum in front of the net off of the rebound ended with the puck on Kopacka’s stick in the right circle and he patiently held the puck, used a Stockton defender as a screen and wristed the puck into the net to even the score 3-3.


San Diego was sent to the box again with 1:58 remaining in regulation and the Heat immediately had a great scoring chance where. Boyle stood tall in net, stopping Phillips from gaining the go-ahead goal. San Diego killed off the penalty just after the overtime session began with two seconds still remaining on the minor penalty to Morand.


With only one shot on net by Stockton throughout the overtime period, the game was pushed into overtime. Alex Broadhurst and Justin Kirkland’s attempts were denied in the first round f the shootout.


Justin Kloos took the next shot for San Diego, slowing down in the slot and stickhandled the puck in front or Gillies before shooting the puck past his blocker. Czarnik took the puck out wide as he approached Boyle and the Gulls goaltender blockered the puck away. Kopacka ended the game when his shootout attempt beat Gillies above the right pad and below the blocker, leaving the Gulls victorious against Stockton for the first time this season.


The Gulls return to action on Friday, Dec. 27 vs. the Ontario Reign at Toyota Arena (7 p.m. PT).

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