December 2, 2022
From Brett Pickler/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls battle the Calgary Wranglers to start an eight-game regular season series at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV, RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
Tonight’s game is the first of four straight encounters between the Gulls and Wranglers, the former Stockton Heat offshoot of the Calgary Flames and the American Hockey League. As this game begins, Calgary is 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games and leads the Pacific Division with 70 goals. Meanwhile, the Gulls are trying to break a four-game losing streak.
Calgary’s offense is their best weapon. On December 1, 2022, right winger Matthew Phillips leads both the Wranglers and the American Hockey League (AHL) 13-13=26 points. He runs a six-game point streak and accumulates 4-7=11 points. It’s not their only weapon, however, as left winger Jakob Pelletier is on an impressive 10-game point streak. During that stretch, he recorded 7-10 = 17 points, advancing into the top ten in the AHL standings. Calgary also has the third best power play in the league at 29.3%.
San Diego needs to be prepared for this explosive offense. The Gulls’ penalty kill ranks sixth in the AHL with 83.9%, making for an intriguing special teams matchup. Lucky for the gulls, keeper Luke Dostal plays at elite level, which gives them an advantage. In the last game against the Colorado Eagles, he stopped 49 of 51 shots. His play consistently gives the Gulls an advantage between the whistles and a good foundation from which to build their game.
seagulls defender Luke Profaca stressed the importance of the small details in the defensive zone.
“I find [Gulls assistant coach Jason Clarke] is really preaching, you know, just the little things, all the little details,” Profaca said. “At least I wouldn’t think about playing in the OHL last year, but a lot of things are important, those little details.”
The Gulls offense is trying to hold their own against a top team and gain some confidence. Left wing Rocco Grimaldi leads the charge, has three power play goals (PPG) in his last two games and finished Wednesday’s game as a league co-leader with seven man advantages. defender Olli Juolevi is making noise with his playmaking skills offensively and has provided seven assists in his last six games. He produces on both the power play and strength, which is an area where Gulls is a head coach Roy Summer wants to improve.
“I think the most important thing, you know, is winning 50-50 races in the offensive zone,” Sommer said after the 3-1 loss to the Eagles. “And, you know, three guys around the puck again. We bring in a forechecker and the other four checkers (are) late and then they come right out.”
This is the start of a difficult game for the Gulls, but it’s also an opportunity. Four straight division games can help the team close the gap in the standings. San Diego is led by a strong goaltendership that gives them the chance to win every game.
“I think we just have to move our feet and limit our turnover,” Profaca said of the game plan against the Wranglers. “That was a big focus of our training today. It’s limited wherever you flip pucks and you know how we make it in the offensive zone, how we break through the defensive zone. So all those things will contribute to wins against Calgary.”