Gulls, Barracuda Set For Weekend SeriesMar 6, 2020
The Gulls are back in San Jose for the second of three consecutive meetings against the Barracuda as they open a back-to-back set tonight at SAP Center (7:00 p.m. PT, TV: AHLTV, Radio: San Diego Gulls Audio Network). San Diego won five of its last six games (5-1-0-0) and recorded points in seven of the last eight contests (6-1-1-0). The Gulls also picked up points in 14 of its last 16 games (11-2-3-0) and 23 of 29 (18-6-4-1).
On the road, San Diego is 7-2-2-0 the last 11 away from Pechanga Arena San Diego during a stretch in which they have had only eight home contests in a span of 24 games overall.
Last week, the Gulls kicked off the club’s longest road trip to date as they visited three cities in four days. Despite dropping the first contest 4-1 to Tucson on Wednesday, Feb. 26, San Diego came back to collect four points in another back-to-back set against Stockton and San Jose.
Tonight marks the midway point of their seven-game gauntlet of a road trip. The Gulls will need to push through the tough stretch of games away from home with a rematch in San Jose tomorrow followed by another back-to-back set at Tucson next week.
“We start to all buy in as a team,” said Gulls captain Sam Carrick regarding the long road trip. “We’re spending so much time together; we’re becoming a family here. That’s when things really get fun. These games are so important for us; every night is huge. We’re out there every night fighting for each other and battling as a team. We need everyone going for sure on every night.”
“I’ve been saying it all year – obviously, we didn’t have the start that we wanted to, so this road trip is super important,” added Chase De Leo. “All these points are huge and crucial to us. It’s pretty much playoff mentality from here on out.”
San Diego (28-18-5-2) looks to continue its winning ways after collecting points in all but two meetings in the month of February (9-2-2-0). The Gulls’ special teams have stayed strong killing 78 of their last 89 penalties (87.6%) to rank seventh among AHL clubs in PK% (84.7). The Gulls sit just one point below Ontario with two games in hand as they continue to push for the final playoff position in the Pacific Division.
“We’ve been there, we caught up, we got in and now we’re out again,” said head coach Kevin Dineen on playoff positioning. “Other teams are playing. You worry about what you can control, which is our games, and take advantage of the opportunity that you’re going to catch up really quickly. You’re going to play four games in the next six days, some back-to-backs mixed in there, so get out on the road and take advantage of that time together and look forward to continuing our push.”
A big part of San Diego’s recent playoff push has been Max Comtois, named CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for February. Comtois scored eight goals to co-lead the AHL in February goals, including four game-winning goals, and tallied 8-5=13 points in the month. The left wing has scored eight goals his last eight games (8-3=11) and enters tonight’s matchup after scoring the overtime-winning goal of their last game in SAP Center. In six games against San Jose, the rookie winger has tallied a total of 3-4=7 points. When Comtois records a point, the Gulls are 14-0-2-0 this season.
Sam Carrick tallied the lone San Diego goal on Wednesday and recorded an assist on Friday and Saturday to extend his point streak to six games (2-5=7). Carrick now leads the AHL with four point streaks of six games or more. The captain has led the Gulls in scoring for the majority of the season and continues to do so with 21-20=41 points in 42 games. Carrick leads San Diego in scoring against San Jose, collecting 5-5=10 points in eight appearances, including points in four straight against the Barracuda (1-5=6).
The Gulls hold a 6-2-1-0 record against the Barracuda this season with a 3-1-0-0 mark at SAP Center. All-time, San Diego is 29-16-3-1 head-to-head vs. San Jose (13-10-1-0 at SAP Center). The Gulls have collected points in seven of the nine meetings this season.
“Let’s not kid ourselves – San Jose went in and had a couple of good games against Iowa this week, so we know we have our hands full with this opponent,” added Dineen. “Their record speaks otherwise, but they have a very young, sharp coaching staff. That certainly was a heck of a game out there, and we were fortunate to come away with two points last time we played there. Our preparation has to be ready right from the puck drop and continue from there.”
Although San Jose has spent the majority of the season near the bottom of the AHL standings in wins and points percentage, they have enjoyed some late-season success. The Barracuda closed their February schedule collecting points in four of the last six games (3-2-1-0). The club began March with back-to-back wins against the Iowa Wild, who ranks second among Western Conference clubs in points percentage.
Jonny Brodzinski opened March with back-to-back two-goal efforts (4-0=4, +4), helping San Jose to consecutive wins to begin the month. Through 41 games played, the former Ontario Reign forward has recorded 12-15=27 points to rank among the top scorers for San Jose. Jayden Halbgewachs had a recent stretch of success as well, picking up 3-6=9 points in his last 10 games. The left wing leads the team in goals (17), while ranking second in points (17-16=33), power-play goals (3) and game-winning goals (3) among all Barracuda skaters.
Goaltender Josef Korenar got the nod in each of the back-to-back games against Iowa, finding some of the magic from his impressive rookie season. The second-year netminder won both games vs. the Wild allowing just two goals on a combined 77 shots faced, posting a 0.97 goals-against average (GAA) and .974 save percentage (SV%). Korenar (11-16-4) has posted a 3.09 GAA and .891 SV% with two shutouts. Zachary Sawchenko has split time with Korenar this season, posting a 5-4-2 record with one shutout, a 2.95 GAA and .906 SV% in 12 appearances.