Printz Scores Game-Winning Tally As Shorthanded Gulls Snuff Out HeatJan 19, 2022
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
Shorthanded and on the second game of a back-to-back, the San Diego Gulls pulled together for one of their most impressive wins of the season.
Fueled by a three-point night from Lucas Elvenes, the Gulls toppled the Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat 3-2 tonight at Stockton Arena. San Diego pushed its win streak to three games and earned standings points in four of its last five games (3-1-1-0).
Elvenes recorded a career-tying three assists (0-3=3) to lead all skaters, while Brent Gates Jr., Axel Andersson and Greg Printz scored for the Gulls. The offense supported another stellar effort from goaltender Francis Marotte, who turned aside 28 of 30 shots for his third consecutive victory.
"It’s fun to see," Gulls defenseman Trevor Carrick said. "The guys are coming together right now. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be apart of. We’re having some adversity in the team right now and guys are overcoming it, guys are stepping up. It’s been fun right now."
Justin Kirkland scored both goals for Stockton, who suffered a second consecutive loss to the Gulls. Goaltender Adam Werner made 28 saves.
The Gulls learned they’d skate shorthanded just prior to the game, as COVID-19 protocols forced the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks to recall both center Danny O’Regan and defenseman Brogan Rafferty. This left San Diego with just 10 forwards and 16 skaters available for a pivotal division matchup.
"We wanted to make sure the guys would stick together," Gulls assistant coach Daniel Jacob said following the game. "That was the main thing. You know, whatever would happen we wanted to stay positive, we wanted to stay upbeat, we wanted to keep the shifts short. We needed to simplify that game and I think we’ve done that from the start."
Gates Jr. pushed the adversity aside and set the tone early, opening the scoring at 6:48 of the first period.
The Grand Rapids, MI native took a pass from Elvenes and found room along the wing, driving hard to the front of the net before beating Werner for his second goal of the season.
Since signing a standard player contract with San Diego on Dec. 30, Gates Jr. has five points (2-3=5) in six games with the Gulls.
Kirkland evened the score, one-timing a shot past the blocker of Marotte for his eighth goal of the season with 6:09 left in the period.
Andersson, making his return to the lineup, put the Gulls ahead with 2:03 left in the second period.
After breaking up a Stockton chance in their own zone, San Diego rushed up the ice, with Brayden Tracey leading the charge. The forward sent a bouncing puck to Elvenes, who tapped it out of the air and down to the ice. He controlled just long enough to send a short pass to Andersson, who found himself at the side of the net with no one in sight. The defenseman didn't miss, slamming the puck past an unsuspecting Werner for his second goal of the season.
Andersson, who missed 18 games with an injury, has three points (2-1=3) in his last three games.
Special teams would take center stage in the final frame, with the Gulls and Heat trading power-play chances. Facing the league’s best penalty kill, San Diego failed to capitalize on their chances. However, they also held the league’s 10th-ranked power play at bay, entering the final minutes of regulation nursing the one-goal advantage.
"We give them so much information before the game," Jacob said. "We were really proud as a staff that they took everything in and all the little details: the sticks positioning, the d-men coming out to block shots. We’ve seen it even in the five-on-six, guys paid the price. They were desperate to get that puck out. So proud of them."
Printz scored the key insurance marker – and eventual game-winning tally – with just 2:26 remaining in regulation.
Elvenes started the rush, chipping the puck to a streaking Jack Badini. The center split the Stockton defense and released a shot in tight that Werner turned aside. He couldn't control the rebound, and Printz cashed in, slapping the puck past the goaltender for his second goal of the season.
Acquired off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights just over a week ago, the center has four points (1-3=4) in four games with the Gulls.
Kirkland scored to pull the Heat within one with 25 seconds left in regulation, but it wouldn't be enough, as the Gulls would shut down Stockton the rest of the way.
The Heat's goal scorer mixed it up at the end of the game, cross-checking Nikolas Brouillard multiple times before the San Diego defenseman dropped the gloves. The two tussled before the refs broke it up, leading to plenty of barking from the Stockton side as the teams left the ice at the end of the game.
"I think a team like that, they run on offense," Carrick said. "They run off the rush and in the first period they had some good chances. Hitting their d (defense) late and getting some chances off the rush, but as the game went on, we kind of tightened up. Our forwards were getting back, we were stopping them off the rush and when we’re playing in their end, they get frustrated too. They don’t want us, a team that doesn’t like to play in their own end. Our forwards were hounding them in their end, behind their own net and they were just doing a great job so props to them."
San Diego will continue its road trip with a pair of games in Abbotsford against the Canucks. The back-to-back series will start Saturday at 7 p.m. PT.