Gulls Win Streak Ends In Loss To Stockton HeatDec 3, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls saw their season-high five-game win streak end in a 4-1 loss to the Stockton Heat tonight at Stockton Arena.
Connor Mackey scored twice – his first two goals of the season – and recorded three points (2-1=3) to lead the Heat, who tied the Chicago Wolves for the top spot in the Western Conference. Dustin Wolf made 23 saves to record eighth win of the season. The rookie netminder remains undefeated in regulation this season.
Danny O’Regan scored the lone goal for San Diego. Lukas Dostal stopped 26 shots, suffering just his second loss in his last six starts.
"I thought we were right on target with what we want to do versus a really good team," Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said. "Realistically, with a very young lineup on the road, I feel the adversity got to us and we kinda crumbled. We showed our youth and our, kind of, emotion. Which is expected a little bit in the growing process. So, I’m not surprised about it. I’m not even mad or disappointed.
"The guys, I think, is just part of growing up to be a hockey player and learning how to match other teams when they raise the stakes. Because after the first period, it was a really good game…road period for us, as good as it could be against a good team. So, just growing, more excited and intrigued to how we’re going to react tomorrow to some of the area where we fell tonight. Why we let the game get away a little bit from us."
The game came down to special teams. San Diego, who entered the game with the league’s second-best power play, went just 1-for-9 on the man advantage and allowed Stockton to score both a power play and shorthanded goal.
"I think it affected us that we were not as free as we wanted to be," Bouchard said. "Ice was not very good, so it’s not a power-play ice. Which is not an excuse, but I think we just showed our youth in not finding solutions to problems. Or not finding solutions to counter match maybe their maturity and their capability of managing some area. They didn’t have a great first period in some way and they managed really well after that. So, which is kinda what we’re trying to match here as a team."
Despite incredibly stingy defense, the Gulls found themselves trailing by one after the opening frame.
Martin Pospisil opened the scoring, netting his fourth of the season with 7:08 left in the first period. The left wing received a pass from Jakob Pelletier and waited for traffic to develop in front of Dostal. His wrist shot floated through the mass of bodies and past San Diego's netminder for the first goal of the game.
Pelletier ranks tied for third among all American Hockey League rookies with 18 points (7-11=18). He's collected points in eight of his last nine games.
The goal marked the first – and only – shot of the period for Stockton. The one shot against is the fewest shots allowed by the Gulls in a first period in team history, besting the previous record of two.
“We came out, we played a great first period," O'Regan said. "We kept it simple, got pucks in deep and were really good in the d-zone. The 'd' were doing a good job getting pucks out, beating their forecheck. One shot on net against a really good team was a really good start for us."
Stockton turned up the heat in the second period, scoring twice to extend the lead to three.
Zary doubled the Heat advantage just past the two-minute mark, scoring his second goal of the season from a tough angle. Colton Poolman swatted a puck through the Gulls defense and to Zary, who found himself down near the goal line. He chopped at the bouncing puck, sending it through Dostal for the goal.
Mackey scored his first goal of the game, a shorthanded tally with 1:20 left in the middle frame. It marks the second shorthanded goal allowed by San Diego this season.
The Heat pumped 21 shots on net - a season-high for shots allowed in a second period by the Gulls.
"We definitely just got away from it," O'Regan explained. "Kind of fell asleep a little bit and you know, let them get on the forecheck, have the puck and (we) weren’t as good on the forecheck, in the o-zone or the d-zone. Our special teams- our penalty kill was okay- but our power play wasn’t generating a lot of momentum for us and that’s important against a good team like that."
O’Regan sparked San Diego in the third period, scoring a power-play goal at 3:18 of the final frame.
With Justin Kirkland in the box for tripping, Nikolas Brouillard collected a puck at the side boards and quickly moved it to Brogan Rafferty. The defenseman sent it down to O'Regan, who curled into the faceoff circle before firing a wrist shot past Stockton goalie Dustin Wolf for his fourth goal of the season.
Brouillard has six assists and eight points in his last seven games (2-6=8).
Dostal kept the deficit at two, stopping a penalty shot from Kirkland at 9:58 of the period. He's now 1-for-2 in his career in those situations.
Opponents are 3-12 in all time penalty shot opportunities against San Diego. Kirkland earned the first penalty shot against the Gulls since Ryan McGregor on Mar. 20, 2021 at Tucson.
The momentum wouldn’t last for the Gulls, as Mackey scored a power-play goal with 5:58 left in regulation to restore Stockton’s three-goal advantage.
The two teams will close out the back-to-back series tomorrow at 6 p.m. PT at Stockton Arena.