Kirkland’s Two Goals Help Gulls Secure Point In Shootout LossMar 21, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to the Iowa Wild tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Justin Kirkland (2-1=3) highlighted a strong Gulls offensive attack, one which posted three-or-more goals for the fifth time in its last eight games. Drew Helleson (0-2=2) collected the first multi-point game the season while Brayden Tracey chipped in 1-1=2 points to help the Gulls grab a point.
"That's a tough one to swallow there, Helleson said. "Like you said, I thought we came out really well in the first. That was part of our game plan. We weren't happy with the way we played the last time we had those guys, so it felt good coming out there and having a good start. But that's a second (period) we can't have. That bit us there. That's a good team - they're hard to score against, they play hard. You got to give them credit, they played a good game. It also hurts, that goal getting called back there. Refs are human too, they make mistakes, so you can't get too upset with them."
San Diego struck early and often in the opening frame.
Kirkland scored his first of the game at 2:27 of the opening frame. The Gulls held the puck at the blue line, where Tracey found Helleson with a cross-ice feed. The defenseman sent a low shot toward the net, forcing Iowa netminder Zayne McIntyre to make a save. He failed to control the rebound and Kirkland pounced, putting the loose puck into an open net for his eighth goal of the season.
The forward collected his second of the game at 7:19 of the period, beating McIntyre for a power-play tally. It marks the first two-goal game for Kirkland since Jan. 19, 2022 with Stockton against the Gulls. It also gave San Diego four man-advantage tallies in their last three games.
"I think, you know, for our unit, it's simplifying," Kirkland said. "It’s shooting the puck, not getting too cute with it. We were running into some trouble earlier with turnovers, you know, looking for too many seams, too many fancy plays. At the end of the day, it's simplifying. We got one more guy out there, so get pucks to the net and outnumber them."
Tracey added on, scoring a buzzer-beating tally to close the opening frame. The forward swiped the puck past McIntyre with .1 seconds on the clock, nabbing his 10th goal of the season just before the horn ended the period.
Iowa roared back in the second period, tying the game with three goals in 4:26. The comeback included back-to-back power-play tallies for the Wild, who have three man-advantage tallies against the Gulls this season.
"You know, penalty kills kind of slipped a little bit," Gulls head coach Roy Sommer said. "You know, we've kind of been given up some goals where that used to be a strong point for us, and the power play is starting to produce. So, it's usually one or the other. I'd like to see them both on the same par but, yeah, five-on-five we seem to be getting it done. We're playing way better defensively. And we're creating a lot by our d(efense) coming down the wall and keeping more plays alive, thus giving us more offense and more zone time."
Early in the third, it appeared San Diego pulled ahead when Josh Lopina put a bouncing puck through McIntyre and into the back of the net. Officials quickly huddled and determined the play was blown dead prior to the puck crossing the goal line, negating the go-ahead tally and forcing extra time.
With the overtime scoreless, the teams moved to the shootout, where Iowa’s Michael Milne and Nic Petan scored to give the Wild the extra point.
"I thought we played really well in the first and were all over them," Helleson said. "
"A big part of our game is our forecheck, and I thought our forwards did a real good job getting in there, hitting their d(efense) and hunting. That's what drives us, and if we can bring that to Calgary, I think we'll have some success."
San Diego heads on the road, visiting the Wranglers for a weekend series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. PDT.