Gulls Look To Chomp Down On Barracuda

Preview: Gulls Continue California Road Trip Tonight In San Jose

Jan 20, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

The San Diego Gulls continue their four-game road trip tonight, facing the San Jose Barracuda at Tech CU Arena (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).

San Diego (11-27-0-0) looks to begin a second-half surge and pull closer to one of the teams ahead of them in the Pacific Division standings. San Jose (16-21-0-2) sits in the division’s seventh and final playoff spot, holding a one-point lead over the Henderson Silver Knights. In addition, the Gulls enter tonight with three fewer games played than their Northern California rivals, making this matchup an important four-point swing for both clubs.

"They're a small, fast team," Gulls right wing Evan Weinger said. "Tenacious; they're always on the puck and they have a lot of skilled forwards up front so we have to be aware of that. We just need to stick to our game and control what we can control."

The Gulls want to shake the sting of a tough 5-1 loss to the Bakersfield Condors on Wednesday night at Mechanics Bank Arena. Carter Savoie recorded a hat trick – the first of his career – while Xavier Bourgault and Seth Griffith contributed multi-point efforts to send San Diego to its third straight loss.

"I think we have to start on time," Gulls assistant coach Kris Sparre said about the loss. "In the last three games, we've decided we'd like to play hockey in the third period, which is usually too late at this level. That's a big thing for us. We just got to play a little less risky, give ourselves a chance to win on the road. I think we have good offensive players who can score when those times present themselves, but just being a little more compact as a team and not giving up so much."

Tonight is the second of four regular-season meetings between San Diego and San Jose. The teams split the first two meetings, with the Barracuda winning 3-0 on Nov. 16 and the Gulls grabbing a 5-2 victory on Jan. 11. San Diego owns an all-time mark of 42-20-4-1 against the Barracuda, including a 20-12-2-0 record in San Jose (22-8-2-1 at home). The Gulls won 11 of the last 13 head-to-head matchups, outscoring them by a combined score of 33-17 and earning points in 18 of the last 22 meetings dating back to Jan. 31, 2020 (17-4-1-0).  

Rocco Grimaldi leads the Gulls in point production against the Barracuda after recording a pair of shorthanded goals and an assist (2-1=3) on Jan. 11, while Pavol Regenda sits just behind Grimaldi after earning 1-1=2 points in the same contest. Darren Brady posted 0-2=2 assists on Jan. 11 and is tied with Scott Reedy (1-1=2) and Montana Onyebuchi (0-2=2) for the most points against the Gulls this season.

Gulls defenseman Michael Del Zotto looks to continue his hot streak and help San Diego find the win column. The Stouffville, Ontario native brings a career-best seven-game point streak into tonight’s contest, posting 2-5=7 points in that stretch. Since joining the Gulls on Dec. 19, the defenseman is averaging nearly a point-per-game, recording 3-6=9 points in 11 contests. The output nearly matches his total in 25 games with the Charlotte Checkers (2-8=10 points) earlier this season.

San Jose made a pair of trades yesterday, acquiring former Gull Kyle Criscuolo from the Grand Rapids Griffins for forward Jasper Weatherby. The center collected 5-5=10 points and 17 penalty minutes (PIM) in 27 games with the Griffins this season. He’s posted 77-110=187 points and 127 PIM in 334 career American Hockey League games with the Griffins, Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Gulls and Rochester Americans.

Weatherby, a fourth-round selection of the San Jose Sharks in the 2018 NHL Draft, collected 3-3=6 points and 39 PIM in a career-high 39 games with the Barracuda this season. He did record a goal – a shorthanded tally – in San Jose’s win over San Diego on Nov. 16.

In a separate deal, San Jose also dealt forward Patrick McGrath to Grand Rapids for future considerations. McGrath went scoreless with 42 PIM in five games with the Barracuda this season. In 137 career AHL games, the Wilkes-Barre, PA native scored 4-5=9 points and recorded 482 PIM with the Barracuda, Utica Comets, Rochester Americans, Iowa Wild and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Barracuda snapped a four-game losing skid on Sunday, Jan. 15, defeating the Abbotsford Canucks 3-2 on home ice. William Eklund led the way with two goals, while Derrick Pouliot netted the game-winning tally – and his first goal of the season – just over five minutes into the final frame. Eetu Mäkiniemi recorded the win, stopping 32 shots for his seventh win of the season.

The Barracuda are led by the dynamic rookie duo of Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau. The pair co-lead the team in scoring with 27 points. Bordeleau, a 2023 AHL All Star, leads all league rookies in power-play goals (8), power-play points (16) and goals (17).

Eklund is tied with former Gull Andrew Aggozino for the team lead with 16 assists. His 92 shots rank fourth among AHL rookies. 

"I think we're similar in the way we play," Sparre said about tonight’s matchup. "They have some good offensive forwards, some good defense. Structurally, they play a pretty good game, and so do we at times. If we're doing it for 60 (minutes), they're doing it for 60 (minutes), it should be a good hockey game, but we don't want to be the team who shows up in the third period ready to go. We want to be ready right from the puck drop, and we should give ourselves a really good chance."

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