Gulls Score Late, Fall 3-1 To RoadrunnersNov 23, 2022
By Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls lost 3-1 in a midweek matchup against the Tucson Roadrunners at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
The Gulls entered tonight’s contest trying to build off their 6-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. However, luck was not on San Diego’s side in the opening 20 minutes. They went down 2-0 to the Roadrunners from two unfortunate deflections in the defensive zone. The first goal came after a deflection over goaltender Lukas Dostal. Tucson’s second goal came from a partially blocked shot that knuckleballed its way into the back of the net.
"I think they got two lucky bounces at the start of the game," center Benoit-Olivier Groulx said. "It wasn't Dostal’s fault or anything. We lost our coverage a little bit and we failed on that. But, I think overall we had a fine game. I think we got our chances."
San Diego did get their chances in the first period. Right winger Jacob Perrault picked up a flip pass at the far blue line and attacked the net on a partial breakaway. He shot the puck around the bottom of the hashmarks with the Tucson goaltender barely getting his glove there in time. Left winger Brayden Tracey created an opportunity on the power play after he made a backhand toe-drag at the top of the circle, almost putting the puck top-shelf.
The penalty kill also contributed to the Gulls’ attack. After taking a penalty in the last two minutes of the period, left winger Rocco Grimaldi blocked a shot and went down the ice to create a 2-on-1. He slid the puck to Groulx for a dangerous chance from the slot.
The second period began with the Gulls killing off the remainder of their penalty. However, the team could not build off the early kill. Each team took a more conservative approach in this period. Both sides played strong neutral zone defense and limited shots to the perimeter in their defensive zones.
San Diego started to control the game after killing their third penalty. Dostal made a huge save late in the kill, denying Roadrunner center Jean-Sebastien Dea right in front of the crease. The Gulls built off this, establishing themselves in the Tucson zone.
This sustained pressure led to a power play. The Gulls moved the puck with ease on the man advantage, forcing the Roadrunners to chase the puck. San Diego nearly found the back of the net multiple times, but the puck did not bounce in their favor. They continued to generate scoring chances after the power play ended but conceded a hooking minor in the last minute of the period.
Just like they did to start the second, the Gulls killed the penalty. Now skating at full strength, San Diego went on the attack. Gawdin found himself alone in front of the goalie after the puck bounced behind the Tucson defenders. He settled the puck and tried to slot the puck top shelf, but hit the goalie in the helmet.
There was no letting off the gas pedal in the third for the Gulls. Needing to score twice, San Diego hounded the Roadrunners in the offensive zone. This led to Grimaldi stealing a puck along the right wing boards and firing a shot off the crossbar, nearly cutting the lead in half.
Tucson started to lose their discipline as the period went along, giving the Gulls a two-man advantage. San Diego peppered the netminder but were unable to convert on the power play.
Time was running out for the Gulls. They decided to pull Dostal with 3:12 left in the period. San Diego controlled the play in the offensive end, firing shots from every angle. After recovering a loose puck, the Gulls connected on two cross ice passes, with Groulx finishing the play on a backdoor tap in making it 2-1.
Groulx credited his teammates with the excellent playmaking on his goal: "I had the defenseman in front of me. Kirky (Gulls forward Justin Kirkland) made a really nice pass, and OJ (Gulls defenseman Olli Juolevi) made a really nice pass before that. It was it was all up to them. They made the play, so I just had to tap into the net."
With a minute left to play in the game, the Gulls were able to get a whistle in the offensive zone allowing them to pull the goaltender once again. They won the draw and then immediately went to work on trying to tie the game. Unfortunately, the Roadrunners defense blocked a shot, then cleared the puck into the empty net to finish the game 3-1.
Dostal’s play in net kept the game close. He made 24 out of 26 saves and helped the Gulls record their ninth game with a perfect penalty kill this year. San Diego now sits in fifth place in the American Hockey league with an 84.8 penalty kill percentage.