The San Diego Gulls finally got off the schneid and tallied their first win. The team is starting to increase their offensive output as they face a key but weaker opposition.
With their loss to the Gulls, the Tuscon Roadrunners dropped to seventh in the Pacific Division, and consequently, outside a playoff spot. The Arizona Coyotes’ affiliate has just one win in their last eight games, making points for both sides critical as they faceoff against divisional opponents.
The Anaheim Ducks’ affiliate is starting to get key members of their lineup back for this key stretch of games. With the taxi squad being eliminated after the All-Star break, key players such as Greg Pateryn, Danny O’Regan, and Lukas Dostal are back in San Diego.
Entering the second game of their back-to-back, the Gulls had an opportunity to string together consecutive victories for the first time since mid-January.
Special Teams Keep Gulls Competitive
The Gulls were in the driver’s seat on special teams, which allowed them to remain competitive in the game. After all, the team did not receive much help from starting goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek who would be eventually pulled for Dostal.
San Diego’s power play was headlined by quality puck movement and capitalizing on their opportunities. O’Regan, Sharks’ 2012 NHL Draft pick, and Vinni Lettieri got on the scoresheet for both goals, which came at key times in yesterday’s fixture.
The first Gulls’ power-play tally kicked off the second period and tied the game. The team was heavily outshooting Tucson and was rewarded for it on the man advantage.
The second power-play goal came later that period, as Brogan Rafferty’s one-timer beat Josef Korenar to come within a goal. This comeback mentality, according to Lettieri, is from “the way we practice and show up every day. We’re all professionals (and) the guys don’t get enough credit for how hard they’re working.”
Poor Defensive and Goaltending Performance For Gulls
But, the power play efforts were not enough to outscore the hole the Gulls dug for themselves. Consistent odd-man rushes and cross-ice passes picked apart the San Diego defense.
Especially Michael Carcone, who completed his hat trick later in the second period. The Gulls only allowed 15 shots on net, but several were high-danger areas that rightfully threatened Eriksson Ek.
Carcone’s third of the night forced the hand of Bouchard to pull Eriksson Ek. However, the change was not to spark momentum, as the coach felt “guys were down, (but) guys wanted to win for Olle too. That’s why I left him in there because the guys came with good spirit from the get-go of this game.”
Lettieri was not impressed with the team’s defensive performance, however. He noted in past games “we stayed in our structure. That really helped us a lot to keep ourselves in the games at some points, but we’ve just got to be better and work harder for our goaltenders.”
Too little, too late for San Diego
With just under five minutes remaining, Bouchard pulled his netminder ahead of an offensive zone faceoff. He was rewarded shortly thereafter, as Lettieri’s one-timer from the left faceoff dot had enough on it to solve Korenar.
The Gulls continued peppering the Tucson net. After avoiding an empty net goal by the skin of their teeth, San Diego had multiple chances to score in the last minute of play. But the clock ticked all the way down before they could pot their fifth.
Now, the Gulls have lost seven of their last eight games. But, there were still positives to extract from this match as the club has nearly a week off.
Lettieri was proud that despite adversity, his team “had that fight and we kept coming back and we didn’t make easy on them. Now, into this break, just rest and kind of recover a bit and come back with a new mindset to and just get back into the win column.”Our structure got better and better with guys that came up and down. So, obviously, there’s a lot of things going in my head so that break is going to give me the chance to gather things up and line up a plan for the guys too when we get back,” said the head coach.
The Gulls will next faceoff against the San Jose Barracuda in six days. Another key game against a divisional opponent, the southern California side will hope to take points from their rival. What have you thought of the Gulls’ recent performances? Let me know in the comment section!
Josh is a young writer from the Bay Area, who now studies journalism at San Diego State University. In addition to covering the Sharks and Gulls for THW, Josh is a crossover scout at FCHockey and covers his school’s hockey team at TheDailyAztec. When not obsessing over hockey, Josh loves blasting music with friends, theatre, and playing with his dog. Follow Josh on Twitter for his latest takes on the Sharks, Gulls, and NHL Draft!