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PREVIEW: Gulls, Barracuda Four-Game Series Shifts To San Diego

Nov 23, 2021

Paige Burnell/SanDiegoGulls.com

The San Diego Gulls look to make it 3-for-3 tonight when they take on the San Jose Barracuda for the third game in a row, and their first home game against the club, tonight at the Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).

After besting the Barracuda by one goal on both Friday, Nov. 19 (4-3) and Saturday, Nov. 20 (2-1), the Gulls are now 36-18-4-1 all-time against their division foes and 18-7-2-1 at home.

"San Jose is a good hockey club," Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said. "It’s more about us, to be honest, right now than the opposition in a lot of ways meaning that we need to make sure our guys get the style of play that we want."

That style of play is becoming more and more apparent as the Gulls started and ended both of their games in an ideal way. In their two wins at SAP Center, San Diego outscored San Jose 4-0 in the first period. Additionally, the Gulls played over 57 minutes with one-goal leads, learning valuable lessons in closing tight games. 

San Diego’s goalies played a huge role in their success. Lukas Dostal kept the Barracuda at bay in the first meeting of the season, recording a season-high 29 saves to earn his third win of the season. Olle Eriksson Ek followed on Saturday, stopping 22 shots to keep San Jose to just one goal.

Eriksson Ek continued his strong play against the Barracuda. The Swedish netminder is now after 4-0-0-0 against San Jose in his short career. He’s also 2-0-1 in his last three starts with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.

"We played them two times last weekend, so we know them pretty good right now," Gulls defenseman Jacob Larsson said. "We can even play better than we did in those two games. In both games, I think our first period was alright and then we dropped a little bit in the second, but then our third period was good in both those games. If we can just continue with that mentality we had in the third period of both those games, I think we’ll be successful here on Wednesday."

Nikolas Brouillard went back to playing defense after a six-game stint at left wing, but that did not stall his offensive momentum.

He tallied six points (1-5=6) in the two games to extend his point streak to a career-high tying three games. Brouillard ranks second on the Gulls in assists (7) and points (9), while his +6 rating is the highest on the team.

Brouillard’s three assists in Saturday’s win matched the Gulls franchise record for most helpers assists in a game by a defenseman.

Larsson is also riding a three-game assist streak (0-5=5).

"I’m just trying to play my best every game and try to do the best I can do out there," Larsson said. "I’ve been a little bit lucky now with the last couple of games with some nice bounces and all of that, but I’ll take that. I’m just trying to focus on my game and things that I can do good, staring with the d so play…The rest takes care of itself kind of."

The defensive focus is critical as San Diego looks to snatch another four points from the Barracuda. A major aspect of improved defensive play is the penalty kill. San Jose’s power play enters tonight ranked second in the American Hockey League and scored twice against San Diego last weekend.

Additionally, Noah Gregor enters riding a seven-game point streak while Jayden Halbgewachs is on a four-game assist streak. 

"I do feel we got a lot better in a lot of areas every week," Bouchard said. "If you look at our third period the last game and the game before on Friday, there was good intention there, stuff we worked on to give us a chance to win and get as many scoring chances. I’m not getting too excited because I know we have work…There’s stuff we need to be better, but slowly but surely, we’re finding our style of play." 

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