De Leo Shines Bright As Gulls Power Past Griffins In Season-Opening WinOct 14, 2022
By Brett Pickler/ SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 6-2 at Van Andel Arena in their first game of the 2022-23 American Hockey League season. The offensive explosion caps off a solid team effort showcasing the potential San Diego has this season.
The Gulls started the game off strong, establishing themselves inside of the Griffins zone. This sustained pressure allowed San Diego to control the flow and resulted in Hunter Drew converting a rebound to start the scoring at the 3:21 mark of the first period.
As the period progressed, the Gulls defense showcased its strength. They held the Griffins to only four shots throughout the first period, despite conceding two penalties.
"Good start, you know, getting the first goal, especially on the road in a home opener is always a good thing to have," Gulls head coach Roy Sommer said. "It kind of helps you relax a little bit instead of them getting it, but a lot of penalties tonight. I think there was 11 or 12 total, we killed a 5-on-3, a five-minute (penalty). I thought or goaltending was excellent tonight. He (Lukas Dostal) made key saves at key times during the game. If he didn’t, it would’ve been a tie game and then we’d go down and get a goal so I’ve got to give a lot of kudos to him."
The second period out started like the first, with San Diego striking early. Just over two minutes in, Benoit-Olivier Groulx found the back of the net after a nifty give-and-go with Brayden Tracey from behind the net. The two-goal lead did not last long as Grand Rapids quickly answered back after converting on a 5-on-3 power-play.
The momentum began to shift back in San Diego’s favor after they killed off the remaining four minutes of Josh Healy’s major penalty. Captain Chase De Leo scored on a breakaway after a strong defensive play to give the Gulls a 3-1 lead.
Following the goal, Grand Rapids took three penalties within 22 seconds to give San Diego a two-man advantage. Justin Kirkland blasted a one-timer from the top of the right circle to give the Gulls a 4-1 lead and the team’s first special teams goal of the season.
"Our power play was shooting the puck," Gulls defenseman Nikolas Brouillard said. "We had good net-front presence. We had a 5-on-3, which always helps to get goals, but a lot of power-play (time) in the first game is good; it's good to get the power play going. We worked on the power play probably the past week and a half. It showed tonight."
On the other end was Lukas Dostal, who stopped 15-of-17 shots to help the Gulls carry a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. He finished with 25 saves and is now 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average (GAA) and .947 save percentage (SV%) in two season-opening starts with San Diego.
The Gulls finished strong in the game’s final period, with De Leo and Brouillard finding the back of the next to give San Diego the win. They also won the special teams battle, collecting two power-play tallies and killing four of the five penalties they faced.
"I think it was good," Drew said. "Obviously, first one of the year, so a little sloppy at times. A lot of penalty trouble for both teams, but 5 on 5, power play, I think we were real good. Penalty kill was good, too. So, no complaints."