Gulls Look For Win Before Holiday BreakDec 21, 2019
The Gulls will look to do something they haven’t all season tonight; beat the Stockton Heat.
San Diego closes a three-game homestand when they host the Heat tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m., TV: FOX 5 San Diego, Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network) before a five-day holiday break. The clubs continue a 12-game season series as they face off for the fifth time in a so far one-sided matchup. As part of tonight’s Winter Wonderland game, all fans will receive a snow globe upon entry and are invited to a holiday-themed tailgate in the North parking lot from 5-7 p.m.
The Gulls (10-12-1-1, 22 pts.) search for a win as they close out the homestand where they have suffered back-to-back losses. The Gulls held a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes one night ago courtesy of Blake Pietila’s power-play goal, but surrendered four straight goals in the third period en route to a 4-2 setback vs. San Jose. Tuesday saw Grand Rapids win a 3-2 shootout at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Tonight will mark the conclusion of San Diego’s eighth back-to-back matchup where the club has won two of their last three game in such situations.
“We don’t have any choice,” said Kevin Dineen of turning the page after last night’s setback. “You’ve got a game coming up and sometimes that’s the best medicine after a tough loss is to get right back at it. We have a good team coming in and we have to be ready for them.”
Pietila echoed his coach’s comments with the quick turnaround and the holiday break looming.
“We have no choice. It’s a quick turnaround and the last game before the break,” said Pietila. “We have to forget about this one and get after a good start tomorrow and hopefully we can go into the break feeling good about ourselves.”
The power play turned a corner last night with Pietila and Jack Kopacka netting goals on the man advantage which scored two (2-for-4) for the first time in 12 games. The penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 last night as well.
“We have to take the good things out of (our game),” said Jani Hakanpaa following Friday’s game. “Some things we have to be better at. We have to regroup to get our energy back high. Then just jump in tomorrow, it’s going to be our last game before the break, so everyone is going to be excited and we want to finish on a good note. I think the boys are going to be buzzing (tonight).”
The Heat (17-5-2-2) sit second in the Pacific Division and enter tonight’s game with a five-game point streak (4-0-1-0). Stockton has also won six straight games over the Gulls dating to last season. The Heat had won four straight before falling 4-3 to the Iowa Wild in overtime Wednesday evening at Stockton Arena. On the road, Stockton holds an 11-2-0-1 record, ranking second in the Pacific Division and sixth among AHL leaders. The Heat rank first in the Pacific Division in special teams on the road, capitalizing on 16-of-56 power plays (28.6%) and successfully killing off 56-of-65 penalties (86.2%).
Right wing Matthew Phillips leads the Heat in scoring, recording 12-16=28 points in 25 games. Phillips ranks tied for sixth in the league in scoring and held on to a seven-game point streak from Nov. 27 - Dec. 18, tallying 7-5=12 points in that span before failing to record a point against Iowa. Center Luke Philp has had an impressive rookie year posting a five-game goal streak from Nov. 11 - Dec. 12, scoring seven goals in that span. The Alberta native leads Stockton rookies in scoring, notching 13-3=16 points in 24 games.
Playing in his first professional season, goaltender Artyom Zagidulin has been nearly perfect with an 11-1-2-0 record for Stockton despite a 3.29 goals-against average (GAA) and a .894 save percentage (SV%) in his first 16 AHL games. Zagidulin was the netminder of record Wednesday vs. Iowa, allowing all four goals while stopping 33-of-37 shots in the overtime loss.
Splitting duties with Zagidulin has been Gulls nemesis Jon Gillies, who has won all three of his starts in the season series, posting a 1.67 GAA and .939 SV% (77-of-82 shots). In 12 games this season, Gillies has posted a 6-4-2 record with a 2.76 GAA and a .906 SV%.