Baby It's Cold Outside

Gulls Cool Heat, Return From Break With 4-1 Win

Jan 7, 2022

By AJ Manderichio/

If they felt rusty, the San Diego Gulls certainly didn’t show it.

After a 20-day break due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the team, the Gulls returned to Pechanga Arena San Diego with a resounding 4-1 win over the Stockton Heat. The win snaps a three-game losing skid for San Diego and gives them a crucial division win against one of the American Hockey League’s top teams.

Highlights | GameCenter

Bryce Kindopp and Brayden Tracey collected a goal and assist while Nikolas Brouillard picked up two assists to snap a three-game losing streak. Lukas Dostal stopped a season-high 37 shots to collect his sixth win of the season.

"Attitude and buy-in," Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said about the win. "This is what we’ve been working through on all the details and I’ve said I’m demanding and when they’re good, you know I’ll always go vocal about it. I thought tonight they were very good on every little thing and that’s how we build the program. There was some adversity, obviously, guys didn’t play for a long time, but I thought preparing to that game, practices were good. Guys were a little tired tonight. I could tell some red cheek on the bench or guys coming back with a bit of long-legs at times, but to me, the attitude and like I said, the buy-in, was a big difference."

Eetu Tuulola collected the lone goal for Stockton, who suffered their third loss in the last five games. Adam Werner allowed four goals on 25 shots, suffering his third loss of the season.

Dostal helped settle in his team in the early going, keeping an active Stockton team at bay. The Gulls began to build their momentum over the latter half of the first period, using two power play chances to build confidence. The extra-man units found several high-quality scoring chances, including a Kindopp one-timer from just inside the slot, but Werner turned San Diego aside.

"I like that he was calm," Bouchard said about Dostal. "I thought he read the play very well. You know, obviously, there’s some really good scoring chances, but there was a lot of long shots there where he was a bit of a Velcro for me where they weren’t dangerous shots, but they could have been if he would have boxed that puck up. He didn’t play for a long time. You’ve got to remember his last game was December 17, so I thought he was really good at keeping his rebounds, he was really calm in net. He had a couple power plays in the second period that’s not always easy for a goalie. It gets tiring. I felt he was in control."

The dam broke for the Gulls in the second when Hunter Drew opened the scoring at 5:12 of the middle period.

Brouillard gathered a puck at his own blue line, quickly passing it through the neutral zone and to an open Drew. The hulking forward barreled ahead, winding up for a heavy shot as pressure came from the Stockton defense. His low shot slid past Werner for Drew's fourth goal of the season.

The Gulls scored the first goal in 11 of their last 17 games and are 8-3-0 this season when opening the scoring.

"It was pretty positive until Hunter’s goal, but I feel, after his goal, it kind of, you’re right, gave some spirit to the guys," Bouchard said. "We had a lot of scoring chances tonight. I thought the guys bought into what we worked on this week. We’ve told them a few things we want to be better at. Obviously, we only played 22 games before Christmas with a lot of moving parts. The coaching tried to implement a system that’s demanding. I thought tonight the guys did real well and you’re right- that goal changed it."

Tracey extended the lead to two, floating a shot from the point past a screened Werner with just under 10 minutes left in the period.

Kindopp won an offensive zone faceoff, with Tracey collecting the puck in the right circle. He gave a quick shoulder fake to his defender, feigning a turn to the boards before circling to the top of the slot. His soft wrist shot floated through the net-front traffic and into the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season.

The goal ties Tracey with Jacob Perreault for the team lead in goals.

The penalty kill played a huge role in the helping San Diego establish - and hold - its lead. The team twice killed off extended 4-on-3 chances, the second punctuated by a sliding Dostal save to deny the red-hot Jakob Pelletier, who entered tonight leading all American Hockey League rookies in scoring with 11-17-28 points.

"When you can kill penalties like that, obviously Dostal made a lot of good saves there, our killers did a good job, (Gulls assistant coach) Dan (Jacob) did a good job there of drawing up how we have to set up and we just kind of kept it to the outside and Dostal made big saves," Kindopp explained. "When you kill penalties like that, it creates a lot of momentum. Then, you can build from there."

Stockton would eventually break through on the man advantage, climbing within one with 10.4 seconds left in the period.

Tuulola solved Dostal on his team's 27th shot of the game, finishing off a 3-on-2 rush with a deflection past the San Diego netminder for his seventh goal of the season.

Groulx restored San Diego's two-goal lead at 7:51 of the final frame.

Brouillard carried the puck into the Heat zone, finding Perreault with a drop pass at the top of the faceoff circle. The Gulls rookie wasted no time one-timing the puck on net, forcing Stockton netminder Adam Werner to make the save. The puck trickled out to the front of the net, where Groulx worked around a defenseman and slammed the puck into the open net for his second goal of the season.

Brouillard collected his first multi-point game since Nov. 20 at San Jose. He leads team defensemen in assists (12) and is third on the Gulls in scoring (3-12=15).

Kindopp added on, scoring the Gulls fourth goal of the night with 5:42 remaining in regulation.

Brent Gates Jr., making his season debut, turned over the Heat at center ice to start an odd-man rush. He fed Tracey, who charged in alone on Werner. He forced the Heat netminder to play the shot, faking his attempt before sliding over a pass to Kindopp, who tapped the puck into a wide-open net for his third goal of the season.

The Gulls will finish off this back-to-back set of games tomorrow night against the rival Ontario Reign at Toyota Arena.

"They’re a really good team," Kindopp said when asked about the rivalry matchup. "Get your fluid in you tonight, get sleep and then right back at it, which is nice. Maybe if guys didn’t think they played their best, they get to go back at it tomorrow. Obviously, a really good team so same mindset - stick to the system, do what you have to do and the result will take care of itself."

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