Gulls Kick Off Holiday Homestand Against Grand RapidsDec 17, 2019
The Gulls return home to host the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m., TV: AHLTV, Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network) after a weekend road trip in Colorado. The clubs meet for the second time in a span of seven days here in San Diego as they continue a four-game season series. Tonight’s game will also mark the beginning of a three-game homestand for the Gulls before they enter a five-day holiday break.
Tonight’s contest will mark the second of eight games that San Diego will face a Central Division opponent in 2019-20, as the club will also play the Iowa Wild on four occasions this season. San Diego has posted a 26-9-4-0 all-time record against the Central Division (.718%), the highest points percentage among Pacific Division clubs against Central opponents. San Diego held an 8-2-2-0 record against their inter-conference opponents in 2018-19, tying the most wins in club history vs. the division in a single season (also in 2017-18: 8-1-1-0).
After splitting their first two contests during San Diego’s inaugural season, the Gulls dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker at Pechanga Arena San Diego last Wednesday. Max Jones, Brent Gates Jr. and Chase De Leo scored to give San Diego a 3-1 lead, but the Griffins netted three unanswered goals in the final two periods with Matt Ford scoring the eventual game-winning goal with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
San Diego (10-11-1-0) enters tonight’s contest after they split the matchups against Colorado over the weekend. The Gulls collected two points in a shootout win against the Eagles on Friday, Dec. 13 before falling 3-1 in the second of back-to-back contests. Corey Tropp recorded his first goal of the season in Friday’s matchup. Alex Broadhurst and Justin Kloos each netted their shootout attempts and Kevin Boyle stopped 41 shots in regulation and overtime, and both of Colorado’s attempts, to secure his first win of the season.
Daniel Sprong notched San Diego’s only goal in Saturday’s contest, with Gates Jr. and Broadhurst collecting assists on the play.
With the lone goal in Saturday’s game against the Eagles, Sprong took the team lead in scoring with 6-11=17 points. He's collected 3-8=11 points in the last 12 games and enters tonight’s matchup hoping to extend his point streak to three games.
Kloos collected a point against Grand Rapids when he assisted on Jones’s goal on Dec. 11. Kloos has tallied 3-9=12 points in 22 appearances this season. He, along with Sam Carrick, Broadhurst, and De Leo have each netted two short-handed goals this season, ranking San Diego second in the league in short-handed scoring.
The Gulls welcomed back several new faces to their roster as Anaheim reassigned defenseman Josh Mahura to San Diego, but also recalled Carrick and Jacob Larsson to the big club. The second-year blueliner has posted two assists in 10 gaames with the Gulls this season. In a corresponding move, the Gulls recalled left wing Jack Kopacka from the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL. The Lapeer, Michigan native collected 4-4=8 points and two PIM in five games with Tulsa, including a five-point game Dec. 13 vs. Wichita (2-3=5).
Grand Rapids’ (11-14-1-2) seven-game losing streak came to an end when they visited San Diego last Wednesday, opening their six-game road trip. The Griffins collected two points in the first game of their back-to-back matchups in Bakersfield when Taro Hirose scored the game-winning overtime goal with 12 seconds remaining in the extra session Friday. The Griffins fell 2-1 to the Condors Saturday night, with Tyler Spezia scoring the Griffins’ lone goal.
Hirose was assigned to the Griffins on Dec. 3 by the Detroit Red Wings after tallying 2-5=7 points in 23 games and holding a -11 rating. The left wing collected 3-1=4 points in his five appearances with the Griffins. Hirose amassed three points on Dec. 13 when he scored a power-play goal, the eventual game-winning goal, and assisted on Eric Tangradi’s goal. In addition, defenseman Joe Hicketts is playing in his fourth season with Grand Rapids and leads the Griffins defensemen in scoring, tallying 1-14=15 points in 20 appearances this season.
In other moves for the Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings assigned goaltender Jimmy Howard to Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint, while they NHL club also recalled defenseman Brian Lashoff.
In 14 appearances for Detroit this season, Howard posted a 2-11-1 with a 3.94 GAA and a .887 SV%. He has not played since sustaining an injury Nov. 27 in a 6-0 Detroit loss to Toronto. Howard is a veteran of 530 career NHL games, totaling a 246-184-69 record, a 2.58 GAA, a .913 SV% and 24 shutouts.