Gulls Welcomed Home with Crucial Win
Kiefer Sherwood's two-goal performance powers San Diego past StocktonFeb 19, 2020
The Gulls won their third straight on home ice with a 3-2 victory over the Stockton Heat tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego. With the win, San Diego has points in 10 of their last 11 games (7-1-3-0), 15 of their last 17 games (12-2-3-0) and are 4-0-1-0 the last five games on home ice. Penalty killing continues to be a strength for the Gulls as the team has stopped all three of the Heat’s chances tonight. San Diego has killed 67 of their last 77 penalties (87.0%) to rank tied for eighth among AHL clubs in penalty killing percentage (84.7%).
“A nice hard working home win is a nice way to hit the road again,” said head coach Kevin Dineen following the win. “We’re right in the middle of one of our toughest schedules of the year. I like the brand of hockey that we’re playing. We’re not practicing a lot, but we’re going out, we’re working hard and we’re finding ways to have success.”
Kiefer Sherwood scored two goals for his third multi-goal game of the season, leading San Diego with five goals in six games played against Stockton this season (5-2=7). Max Comtois extended his goal streak to three games (3-1=4), marking the first goal streak of his career.
Anthony Stolarz stopped 40-of-42 shots in his 19th win of the season, marking the third occasion with at least 40 saves. Stolarz is 9-1-2 his last 12 starts with a 2.30 goals-against average and .936 save percentage, stopping 30-or-more shots in 11 straight appearances. He has also won five straight home games, posting a 2.56 GAA and .929 SV%.
“He makes things simple,” added Dineen regarding Stolarz. “For a big guy, he moves well and is always squared to the puck. He takes away angles. I think he had about a two-and-a-half minute shift to finish the game. Stolarz definitely came up big in that moment.”
The Gulls opened the scoring 6:53 into the game when Sherwood scored his 15th goal of the season. Following a faceoff win by Sam Carrick, Simon Benoit sent the puck deep into the Stockton zone on a dump-and-chase effort. Blake Pietila beat Stockton to the puck and found Sherwood with a pass to the slot. Heat netminder Artyom Zagidulin was able to get his blocker on the shot, but couldn’t make the save as the puck crossed the goal line for the game’s first score.
Pietila’s assist marked his seventh point over his last eight games played (3-4=7). In addition, Benoit now has six points in his previous seven contests (2-4=6). The 21-year-old defenceman now has 4-12=16 points this season, tying his career-high set in 2018-19.
The Heat didn’t waste any time answering with a goal of their own as Mason Morelli scored just 29 seconds later. Eetu Tuulola brought the puck into the Gulls zone on an odd-man rush and passed it to Morelli for a partial breakaway. Morelli used a backhand shot to find the back of the net and tie the game.
Towards the end of the period, Pietila took an awkward fall into the boards that forced him to the locker room. However, the forward was back skating with the team as they retook the ice to open the middle frame.
San Diego tallied two goals in a span of 25 seconds, beginning as Sherwood added his second tally of the game with 6:39 remaining in the second period. Sherwood played the puck to Carrick who put a shot on net that was stopped by Zagidulin, and re-took control of the rebound and fired a no-look shot through the Stockton netminder’s pads. Ryan Johnston picked up an assist on the play to give him 1-3=4 points his last seven games played.
Comtois rifled a wrist shot over Zagidulin’s shoulder to extend San Diego’s lead to 3-1 as Alex Broadhurst and Josh Mahura picked up the assist, with the former recording the primary assist on the play to extend his point streak to three games (1-2=3).
Stockton cut San Diego’s two-goal lead in half with 6:55 left in the third period as Alan Quine set a Heat club record with a point in 11 straight games (6-9=15).
The Heat pulled the netminder for an extra skater with 1:54 remaining in regulation and spent the remainder of the contest in the Gulls zone pushing for the tying goal, but Stolarz came up big in the final moments of the game to preserve the two points.
“We have to tip our cap to Stolarz, he kept us in it the whole night, especially in the last two minutes, he was standing on his head the whole game,” said Broadhurst. “We were happy for him to get a big win against those guys, and that was a huge two points for us. We’re really happy with the results.”
The Gulls will visit the Bakersfield Condors Friday, Feb. 21 at Mechanics Bank Arena (7 p.m.).