PREVIEW: Gulls, Silver Knights Open Weekend Series In San DiegoMar 10, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls open a weekend series on home ice, hosting the Henderson Silver Knights in the first of a back-to-back series tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
San Diego comes in well rested, receiving a rare five-day break in their schedule this week. The pause comes off the heels of a successful weekend in Tucson, where the Gulls won consecutive overtime contests to sweep a back-to-back series with the Roadrunners.
“For us, we have some guys who played a lot of minutes,” Gulls assistant coach Kris Sparre said. “(Michael) Del Zotto, (Chase) De Leo and guys like that who play 25-plus minutes a night. This was a week for rest, a week for them to recover and get ready for the weekend. We're in a good way right now, we want to keep playing games for sure and ride that wave, but we also need that rest.”
The back-to-back wins gave the Gulls three victories in their last four games.
"I've liked our attitude and our work ethic the last few games here, and I think we're trending in the right direction," Gulls captain Chase De Leo said. "We just got to keep our foot on the gas and not look back."
The La Mirada, CA native is leading the recent charge. De Leo extended his point streak to a career-tying ninth game (7-6=13) with an assist on Mar. 4, tying for the second-longest point streak in the team’s AHL history (four times, last: De Leo, Mar. 13, 2019 – Apr. 10, 2019). In addition, the left wing has posted 5-6=11 points since his return to the Gulls lineup on Feb. 18, ranking tied for fourth in points among league leaders over the span (as of Mar. 9).
"It's nice to kind of get this thing turned around in the right direction," he said. "We have 15 games left, we want to have a positive finish here to the year. Good habits, good vibes and keep it going into the summer for sure."
Added to the mix are a batch of new faces making immediate contributions. Defenseman Chase Priskie, acquired by the Anaheim Ducks from the Buffalo Sabres organization during the National Hockey League’s trade deadline on Mar. 3, led the way in San Diego’s 2-1 overtime win on Saturday. The blueliner scored twice in his Gulls debut – including the game-winning overtime goal – to post the first multi-goal game of his American Hockey League career.
Up front, center Josiah Slavin posted a multi-point effort in San Diego’s 3-2 overtime win on Friday, Mar. 3, which included netting the game-winning goal just 15 seconds into the extra session. The quick strike set the team’s new AHL record for the fastest goal from the start of an overtime, besting the previous high of 17 seconds. Forward Dylan Sikura made his debut that night and found the scoresheet on Saturday, posting 0-2=2 in the win.
"It's been great," De Leo said of his new teammates. "Obviously, making a pretty instant impact. That's what we want them (to do), and that's what they're here for. Nice to have some help and see them step up and welcome themselves to the organization."
The Gulls and Silver Knights meet in the seventh game of an eight-game season series, with the teams each going 3-3-0-0 over the first six contests. Henderson owns the last win, a 6-5 victory at Pechanga Arena on Wednesday, Mar. 1. San Diego earned two of their three shutout wins this season against Henderson, including a 3-0 shutout victory on Jan. 1 and a 7-0 win on Nov. 8 that tied the franchise’s AHL record for the largest margin of victory (last: Jan. 25, 2017 at TUC). In addition, the victory marked the second time in team history the Gulls shut out the same opponent twice in the same season (2015-16; SJ on Oct. 23, 2015 and Dec. 12, 2015). Pavol Regenda leads the Gulls in points production against the Silver Knights this season with 2-4=6 points, while Brayden Tracey sits just behind him with 2-3=5 points following a two-point effort (1-1=2) on Mar. 1. De Leo also contributed a multi-point performance in the same contest, posting a season-high 2-1=3 points.
The Silver Knights enter tonight off a 6-3 loss to the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Wednesday at Acrisure Arena. The loss snapped a six-game win streak for Henderson, who entered Thursday five points back of Tucson for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
The team found success despite recent issues to its goaltending depth. The Vegas Golden Knights recalled Jiri Patera following an injury to the NHL’s goaltender, Laurent Brossoit. Last week, the NHL club moved netminder Michael Hutchinson, forcing the Silver Knights to sign 50-year-old goaltending coach Fred Breathwaite to a professional tryout (PTO) and have him serve as the backup to starter Isaiah Saville. As a result, the team recalled Jordan Papirny from Savannah of the ECHL on Thursday. Combined, Saville and Papirny have just 10 games of AHL experience, with the former accounting for those totals.
In two games with Henderson, Saville is 1-1-0-0 with a 4.00 goals-against average and .881 save percentage.
Even with issues in net, the Gulls know Henderson is a formidable foe.
"Limiting the shots against is always a big topic for us," Sparre said. "And limiting the middle of the ice. This is a team that's won a lot of hockey games as of late. You know, they go down to Calgary and win three hockey games, which is not an easy thing to do against a team like Calgary. For us, we'll have to take care of the defensive zone structure first, and that will lead to our offense."