PREVIEW: Gulls, Barracuda Begin Season Series At Tech CU ArenaNov 15, 2022
By Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls head to Northern California to begin a four-game regular-season series with the San Jose Barracuda at Tech CU Arena (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
The Gulls travel to a familiar setting for head coach Roy Sommer. Before becoming the team’s bench boss, he spent 24 years with the San Jose Sharks organization. In his tenure, Sommer finished with a record of 808-721-159-48, setting the record for the most victories by an American Hockey League coach.
"Well, we were up there in rookie camp, so I got an opportunity actually to see the building," Sommer said. "I hadn’t seen it while I was up there. I went through it once and you know, nice building, good luck to the ‘Cuda, but better luck to the Gulls."
He also noted how proud he is of his former player, John McCarthy, who now serves as the head coach of the Barracuda.
"Well deserved," Sommer said. "I mean, if anyone was to take my job after 24 years, whatever, I’m glad it went to him. He’s done a good job up there. Their penalty kill is doing really good. They’re about .500 right now and they’re going to be a tough opponent. He got a great future in the game."
Historically, this matchup heavily favors San Diego. They have an all-time record of 24-9-2-0 against the Barracuda, winning 10 out of the last 11 matchups dating back to April 3, 2021. The Gulls enter tonight’s game with confidence after beating the Ontario Regin 4-1 on Sunday. If history stands, this could be an opportunity for the Gulls to string together wins and generate momentum within the division.
"It’s great for us to show some character," Gulls defenseman Axel Andersson said. "It’s a great rivalry against Ontario and we showed up and played physical. It’s a big boost for us and we want to keep it going in the game tomorrow against San Jose."
San Diego enters tonight’s game with rejuvenated offensive attack. The Gulls are using their forecheck to perfection, generating high-danger scoring chances. This new attack is seeing multiple players register some impressive numbers. Forward Rocco Grimaldi has 2-4=6 points in his last three games, firmly establishing himself as the Gulls points leader with 15 points. Forwards Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Jacob Perreault are also providing valuable offense. Groulx has 2-3=5 points in his last three games, while Perreault has three goals in his last four outings. These players will need to continue their hot streaks with San Jose’s solid goalie tandem.
San Jose’s rookie netminder Eetu Makiniemi is shining in his first AHL season, posting a .913 save percentage (SV%) and 2.71 goals-against average (GAA). His partner, Aaron Dell, is playing just as well, with a .915 SV% and a 2.83 GAA. These two continue to give San Jose a solid outing in net on most nights.
The Gulls strength is also in net, where netminder Lukas Dostal is playing on another level. He was named the AHL Player of the Week and, over his last six starts, he combined for a .948 SV% and a 1.38 GAA. Dostal’s incredible performances consistently give San Diego an edge heading into games. His ability in net, mixed with the Gulls offensive capabilities, is creating a dark horse in the Pacific Division.
"Yeah, Dos (Dostal) is an amazing goalie, an excellent person and he definitely deserves it," Andersson said. "We were very happy and proud and we try to help him out as much as we can. He’s playing well and we got to keep it going."