Gulls Look To Rebound At Home Against GriffinsNov 18, 2022
By Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls return to Pechanga Arena San Diego to face off against the Grand Rapids Griffins (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
The Gulls and Griffins enter the third game of a four-game season series tonight after the teams split a season-opening weekend series in Grand Rapids Oct. 14-15.
The Gulls scored two power-play goals in each contest, marking the first time in San Diego’s AHL history the team accomplished the feat in their first two games of the season. Additionally, the Gulls scored a team-best 11 goals through their first two games (previous: 10 goals, Oct. 10-16, 2015). Nine different Gulls registered multi-point efforts over the weekend series, with Glenn Gawdin (2-2=4), Nikolas Brouilllard (2-3=5), Olli Juolevi (1-3=4) recording consecutive multi-point games.
The Griffins come into tonight’s game on a two-game skid where they were outscored 8-3. They will look to their playmakers to turn this around against the Gulls’ strong defense. This includes Austin Czarnik, who leads Grand Rapids with 3-2=5 against the Gulls this season after recording a hat trick (3-0=3) on Oct. 15. The Gulls will also need to be on the lookout for Cross Hanas, who ranks second among American Hockey League rookies and leads the Griffins with seven goals this season. The left wing also registered 2-2=4 points over his last three games. Additionally, forward Taro Hirose is a proven playmaker for the Griffins, leading his team with 2-11=13 points this season. Hirose earned eight of his assists on the power play to rank tied for first among AHL skaters. This includes Austin Czarnik, who leads Grand Rapids with 3-2=5 against the Gulls this season after recording a hat trick (3-0=3) on Oct. 15.
This leads to yet another challenge for San Diego’s power play, whose penalty kill now ranks second in the AHL at 88.9%. Over their last four games, the Gulls have been perfect while down a man, killing 20-of-20 of their opponent’s power plays.
Gulls forward Danny O’Regan addressed how pivotal the penalty kill’s success is for the team following their loss to the San Jose Barracuda on Nov. 16: "They've been doing a really good job, keeping us in the game. You know, keeping games tight. Dos (Gulls goaltender Lukas Dostal) is a big part of that, and he's been amazing throughout this whole stretch. We just have to, (on) the other side of things, be a lot better."
Dostal’s play continues to give the Gulls a tremendous advantage in net and bolsters the team’s success in the defensive zone.
On Nov. 14, the netminder received AHL Player of the Week honors and through his last seven starts, maintains a 2.00 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. He made 35 or more saves in five out of the 12 games and has kept opponents scoreless in the five of his last six start.
"We have a really good goaltender," Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke said following the Gulls’ last game on Nov. 16. "There were quite a few breakdowns on the penalty kill and your goaltender is going to be your best penalty killer. He was our best player since the season started and he was our best player tonight again, and he was our best player on the PK."
The Gulls offense looks to give the fans a show in their return home. Forward Rocco Grimaldi is leading the attack with 5-10=15 points in 13 games this season. Each game, he finds a new way to generate offense and create chances for his teammates.
The Gulls looks to establish consistency on both sides of the ice against the Griffins this weekend with a sixty-minute effort from everyone on the team.
"It's definitely something that's in the room. Just to a guy, I mean, just a little bit more focused and, you know, a little more pride with our passes and our d(efensive) zone or o(ffensive) zone," O’Regan said. "You can put (it) on the list and, you know, everyone individually taking that step and being would help a lot this weekend."