Gulls, Roadrunners Meet For Final Regular Season MatchupMay 1, 2021
The San Diego Gulls search for a sweep of their back-to-back series with the Tucson Roadrunners tonight at FivePoint Arena (7 p.m. PT; TV: The CW San Diego; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network). The Gulls enter tonight second in the Pacific Division by points percentage (.635), trailing the division-leading Henderson Silver Knights by a thousandth of a percentage point. San Diego leads the Pacific Division in wins (23) and points (47).
Tonight is the final regular-season meeting between the two division rivals. San Diego leads the season series, 4-3-0-0, and has wins in four of the last five meetings.
The Gulls won the first game of the weekend series, caging the Roadrunners 5-3 last night. The rookie trio of Bryce Kindopp (2-1=3), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (0-3=3) and Alex Limoges (1-1=2) combined for eight points to power San Diego to a win.
"They play the game the right way," head coach Kevin Dineen explained. "They get pucks deep. They make quality decisions through the neutral zone and there’s a skillset there that gets going when you get some confidence. Solid effort by that line."
"It’s working very well because we’re all on the same page," Groulx said when asked about his line's success. "We know what to expect from each other. We ready off each other very well. We know Alex is a very good playmaker and Bryce is a workhorse. They know what to expect from me. We’re having fun right now. We knew how to play against those guys. We’ve had success against those guys. We just wanted to come out, have a good game and put a lot of pressure on their defense."
A better start is key for San Diego’s success. Tucson forced multiple turnovers in the first period, scoring just over 90 seconds into last night’s matchup. The Roadrunners struck again later in the opening frame, converting on their third power-play chance of the period to take a one-goal lead into the locker room.
"I thought we had so many self-inflicted wounds in the first period," Dineen said. "We kept turning the puck over in unnecessary areas. That’s a part of our game that we had cleaned up. We had a really good week of practice. We were all enthused and excited about the game. Even after they scored the first goal, I like the tempo and pace of our game. The next thing you know, it’s not just the first turnover, it’s when you pile on and continue to do it. That was certainly the case. It took us a little breather between the first and second to get our game in order."
San Diego responded from there, scoring four times over the final two frames to extend its point streak to five games (4-0-1-0). The Gulls offense remains scorching hot, as they lead the American Hockey League in both goals (131) and power-play goals (30). They average 4.8 goals per game during their point streak.
They also held former Gull Kevin Roy off the board. The Greenfield Park, Quebec native saw his six-game point streak against San Diego end last night. He leads all players in scoring (2-10=12) and assists in the season series.
While the rookies stole the show last night, the Gulls continue to receive key contributions from its veteran leaders. Vinni Lettieri scored his 13th goal of the season in the first period, extending his goal and point streaks to four games (4-1=5). The first-year Gull ranks seventh among league leaders in goals (13), despite playing in at least five fewer games than any other skater in the top 10.
The Gulls will look to carry their April success into May. San Diego finished the month with a 9-3-1-0 record and leads the league in wins and points.