Gulls, Barracuda Square Off on Country NightFeb 22, 2020
The Gulls conclude a weekend set tonight when they host the San Jose Barracuda in the final home contest of February at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7:30 p.m. PT, TV: AHLTV, Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network).
In the first half of the weekend back-to-back, the Gulls defeated the Bakersfield Condors 4-1 Friday at Mechanics Bank Arena to pick up a point for the fourth straight game (3-0-1-0). Alex Broadhurst (1G/1A) and Chris Wideman (2A) picked up multi-point efforts while Antoine Morand netted his first career shorthanded goal and Max Comtois continued his blistering form with a goal for the fourth straight game. Anthony Stolarz stopped 21-of-22 shots to pick up his 20th win of the season, one shy of his career high set in 2015-16 with Lehigh Valley.
The win gave the Gulls points in 11 of their last 12 games (8-1-3-0) and 20 of 25 overall (15-5-4-1) that has erased a 13-point gap between themselves and rival Ontario, currently in fourth place, to now sit one point out of a playoff spot with two games in hand.
“It’s tough, we are playing a lot of games,” said Morand after last night’s win. “The standings are so tight right now that we need every point. Every night, our mentality is to just get the two points. We’ve been doing a pretty good job and we have to keep going. Getting that win is huge for us.”
The team’s shorthanded success continued last night with Morand’s goal, with the 15th shorthanded marker tied for second in the AHL and the team’s penalty kill atop the league with a goal differential of -13 (28 power-play goals against, 15 shorthanded goals).
“I think the whole crew of them…has played a nice stretch of hockey for us,” said head coach Kevin Dineen on the team’s defense continuing to thrive. “That’s part of the natural progression and it’s a great reflection on the job (assistant coach) Sylvain Lefebvre has done with our D.”
Much of that success has come in the form of Stolarz and that defensive corps, with the 26-year old netminder posting a 10-1-2 record his last 13 starts with a 2.21 goals-against average (GAA) and .937 save percentage (SV%). The team now ranks fifth among AHL clubs in goals against this season (142), climbing from the doldrums of the league standings just three months ago.
This will be the eighth meetings between the Gulls and Barracuda this season as part of a 12-game season series. Tonight also marks the first of four meetings over the next 17 days. This season, the Gulls have posted a 4-2-1-0 record vs. the Barracuda, including back-to-back wins.
Tonight will also mark the final home contest of February and the last over the next 20 days as the Gulls will then embark on a club record long seven-game road trip from Feb. 26-Mar. 11, spanning 15 days and 2,534 miles. A positive on that note: the Gulls have three straight wins at home and points in five straight contests at Pechanga Arena San Diego (4-0-1-0).
“It’s always fun to play at home,” added Morand. “There’s not many left at home so we have to enjoy every game we can and give the fans a big win tomorrow.”
San Jose (16-25-3-2, 37 pts.) remains at the bottom of the AHL standings with the fewest wins in the league. San Jose had not secured a win in eight straight contests from Jan. 18-Feb. 12, but recently picked up back-to-back victories Feb. 16 at Bakersfield (5-2) and Feb. 17 vs. Tucson (6-3). San Jose has had four days of rest to prepare for tonight’s matchup, and as things stand, if the Barracuda fail to make the 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs, it would mark the first time such an instance occurred as San Jose is the only Pacific Division club to have appeared in the postseason in each of the first four seasons since the division’s inception in 2015-16.
Joachim Blichfeld has been a bright spot for San Jose, leading Barracuda rookies in scoring (15-14=29) and ranking second among club skaters. The first-year right wing has collected points in six of the previous seven matchups between the clubs to lead the Barracuda in scoring vs. San Diego (3-3=6). He also holds a four-game point streak against the Gulls dating to Nov. 27 (2-2=4).
Josef Korenar (9-14-4) has been the leader for San Jose in net with 27 appearances and a 3.18 GAA and .884 SV%. Zachary Sawchenko (4-4-1) was a recent addition to the roster after Andrew Shortridge was assigned to San Jose’s ECHL affiliate, and has posted a 2.95 GAA and a .904 SV% in nine appearances.