Gulls, Roadrunners Start Weekend Series At FivePoint ArenaApr 29, 2021
With the regular season winding down, the San Diego Gulls host the Tucson Roadrunners in a pivotal weekend back-to-back at FivePoint Arena starting tonight at 7 p.m. PT (TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network). San Diego leads the American Hockey League in home wins (14), points (28) and home goals (71).
The back-to-back set takes on added meaning as the league announced yesterday the Pacific Division teams will complete the 2020-21 season with a playoff tournament to determine the winner of the John D. Chick Trophy. San Diego enters play this weekend sitting second in the Pacific Division by point percentage (.625), narrowly ahead off third-place Bakersfield (.621). The Roadrunners visit Southern California ranked sixth (.414).
“For however long the season goes, we’re ready to play,” said defenseman Josh Mahura. “We’ve been working all year as a team. It’s definitely exciting.”
“I don’t think there’s any comparable to playoff hockey,” added Gulls head coach Kevin Dineen. “When you get your feet wet with that, you realize you’re really in one. We look forward to getting in the mix.”
San Diego and Tucson will conclude a closely contested eight-game season series this weekend. The clubs evenly split the first six meetings, including three straight wins for San Diego on Mar. 21 (4-2), Mar. 27 (2-1) and Apr. 9 (8-6). Rookie center Benoit-Olivier Groulx leads the team in scoring against Tucson with 3-3=6 points in six games.
“Every team has their own tendencies. We’ve watched them a lot, we’ve played them a number of times,” said Dineen. “You prepare your team to go out and play like they have been. We’ve been very solid here at Great Park and we want to continue that.”
While the Gulls lead the AHL in games played (36), the team enjoyed four days without a game this week, allowing the players and coaching staff a chance to reset heading into an important weekend.
“I felt like our last few days of practice, our team has really been spot on,” said Dineen. “I think a day of getting away from each other led to two good practices. We’ll look forward to carrying that on into this weekend set.”
San Diego continues to ride a potent offense, leading the league in goals (126) and power-play goals (30). Despite the offensive success, the Gulls are focused on their defensive zone play moving forward.
“It’ll start in our own end, making sure we’re taking care of things from our net out,” explained Mahura. “Throughout the game, we’ll be able to create our chances. It’s a matter of not getting in a run-and-gun game. When we play from our end out and let the game come to us, that’s when we play our best.”
A focus for San Diego is limiting the production of one its former players, Tucson forward Kevin Roy. The Greenfield Park, Quebec native has a six-game point streak against San Diego and leads all players in scoring (2-10=12) and assists in the season series. Roy posted a career-high 0-5=5 points in the Roadrunners win over the Gulls on Apr. 9. Roy paces Tucson in scoring (10-18=28) and assists and ranks second in goals.