Rookie Line Powers Gulls Past RoadrunnersApr 30, 2021
The trio of Alex Limoges (1-1=2), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (0-3=3) and Bryce Kindopp (2-1=3) combined for eight points as the San Diego Gulls defeated the division rival Tucson Roadrunners 5-3 tonight at FivePoint Arena.
"It’s working very well because we’re all on the same page," Groulx said when asked about his line's success tonight. "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."
"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."
The Gulls finished April with a 9-3-1 record and now sit second in the Pacific Division by point percentage (.635). San Diego leads the American Hockey League in wins (23), points (47) and goals (131).
The Gulls also continued their success at FivePoint Arena. San Diego improved to 15-4-1 on its temporary home ice and leads the AHL in home wins (15), home points (31) and home goals (76).
Tyler Steenbergen opened the scoring for Tucson, chipping a loose puck past the outstretched glove of Lukas Dostal to give the Roadrunners the lead just 1:33 into the game.
San Diego answered back quickly as Vinni Lettieri continued his torrid scoring stretch, evening the game with his 13th goal of the season. Andrew Agozzino took a pass from Josh Mahura and carried down the left wing wall before floating a pass on the far side of the ice to Lettieri, who fired a quick shot past Ivan Prosvetov to even the score 4:18 into the opening frame.
The goal extended Lettieri’s 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.
With an assist, Agozzino extended his point streak to four games (3-3=6).
Tucson reclaimed the lead with a power-play tally by Michael Carcone at the 13:35 mark of the first period. Carcone continued his success against San Diego this season. The Ajax, Ontario native has seven goals (7-0=7) in his last three games against the Gulls.
"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."
Tucson carried a one-goal lead into the middle frame, but San Diego wasted no time eliminating it as Limoges evened the score 44 seconds after the opening puck drop. Kindopp received a centering pass from Groulx and had his shot blocked, but Limoges followed it up, sliding a rebound bid by Prosvetov to tie the game at two.
Just a few minutes later, the same trio combined to give San Diego the lead.
Groulx collected the puck and advanced it ahead with a pass to Limoges, who spotted Kindopp streaking towards the net. Kindopp made quick work of the pass, deflecting the it past Prosvetov for his sixth goal of the season.
Kindopp cashed in again with a shorthanded goal to extend the Gulls’ lead to two, finishing off a backdoor pass from Groulx.
"They just turned it over on the wall and Bo (Benoit-Olivier Groulx) won a battle there," Kindopp said. "I knew their flank guy behind me was kind of sneaking back door so the bench was yelling and I had a sense right away that it was two-on-one. Bo made a really nice pass and it was easy with the pass he made to put it in the net."
With 0-3=3 points on the night, Groulx collected 2-3=5 points in his last three games. Groulx ranks tied for fourth among AHL rookies in scoring (10-14=24) and assists.
The rookie center also leads the AHL in shorthanded points (2-2=4).
Hunter Drew added to San Diego’s lead in the third period, beating Prosvetov with a wrist shot over the glove to put the Gulls ahead 5-2 with 13:15 to play in regulation.
Tucson would cut the deficit back to two goals as Jeremy Gregoire collected his third goal of the season, but could not pull closer as the Gulls prevailed 5-3.
San Diego and Tucson will conclude their eight-game season series tomorrow at FivePoint Arena at 7 p.m. PT on The CW San Diego and the Gulls Audio Network.