PREVIEW: Scorching-Hot Gulls face league-leading Stockton Heat on Community Night at Pechanga Arena

March 27, 2022

By Paige Burnell/SanDiegoGulls.com

Tonight’s opponent is the Heat, but San Diego brings the fire.

The Gulls enter Sunday’s game with Stockton on an impressive eight-game point streak as they look to maintain second-half progress against the American Hockey League’s top team (5 p.m. PT; TV : AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).

Last night, the Gulls earned their third straight win with a 5-1 victory over the Ontario Reign, extending their point streak to eight games (7-0-0-1). That run tied for the fourth-longest unbeaten streak in AHL history.

Additionally, San Diego is on a six-game unbeaten streak at home, tied for the club’s third-longest home winning streak.

“Well, I think all positions showed up and Olle (Eriksson Ek) showed up today in a nice way,” the Gulls head coach said. Joel Bouchard noted. “Our d-men (defenders) showed up and adjusted as the game went on against a really good team. You have Ontario to thank, and I think our team improved throughout the game. I I’m very proud. So, I think our growth in this game was significant and the guys were playing on instinct and habits and knew what made us successful that’s why we’re building that kind of momentum right now .”

San Diego holds an all-time record of 21-25-4-3 against the league-leading Heat, including a 12-10-2-1 scorer in San Diego.

Leading the Gulls in scoring against the Heat are Brent Gates Jr. (2-2=4) and Bryce Kindopp (1-3=4). Additionally, Lucas Elves played in a three-point game against Stockton on January 19.

The trio played a big part in last night’s win. Elvenes scored a first-half goal to extend their scoring streak to three games (1-2=3), while Kindopp scored his 10th goal of the season, tying a career high for single-season goals. Gates Jr. also landed an assist for back-to-back games (0-2=2).

“I think it’s just about playing our game, obviously our rival there,” Kindopp said of the team’s win over Ontario. “They’re a really good team so I think we just have to stick to the systems, do all the little things and some big saves from Olle (Eriksson Ek) and we buried our chances. Just stuck systems, played hard, and it worked for us.”

It was a great night for Olle Eriksson Ekas he stopped a career-high 42 of 43 shots for his second straight win and seventh victory of the season.

“He looked good, he feels good,” Bouchard said of Eriksson Ek. “I think it’s a season he had to go to the NHL because of the taxi team He came back with us, he worked hard so we are very proud of him and the professional careers are tough ups and downs as we talk about it a lot and we are really proud of his attitude, and the way he faces adversity and I think tonight is, again, a good show of guys learning the game and learning to deal with things and he’s done really well tonight. I’m very proud of him.

The Swedish goalkeeper is on an impressive streak, posting a 1.71 goals-against-average (GAA) and 0.944 save percentage (SV%) in his last four games.

“He was great,” Kindopp said of Eriksson Ek. “He’s been great all year. You know if there’s a breakdown he’s there to bail us out, so you can play with confidence. You know if you make a mistake he’ll be there. So , it’s really easy to play when he’s playing well.”

Alexandre Limoges also set a new career goalscoring streak with his 18th goal of the season to score in four consecutive games (6-1=7) and game-winning goals in his last two outings. He also tied his career-best six-game point streak (6-4=10) with the scorer. Limoges has 7-7=14 points in its last 10 games.

San Diego will need its offensive shot as the Heat enter tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, which began with a 10-3 win over Colorado on March 19. The victory allowed Stockton to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Sixteen members of the Stockton roster contributed to the scoresheet, with Jakob Pelletier singlehandedly posting 2-1=3 points. The rookie leads all freshman skaters with 26 goals and ranks first with 54 points among active freshman players.

Additionally, Pelletier leads the Heat with 4-6=10 points against the Gulls this season after scoring a hat trick in the last meeting, a 5-2 loss at San Diego on March 9.

“Well, like I said to the players, ‘I’m congratulating you right now, but we’re going right back to it. I’m going to be above you, I’m going to be above you,'” said Bouchard. “They know right now what we’re asking for, it’s instinctive. I can feel it’s a lot more natural and it’s getting more natural and we’ve been working on things since the start of the year and we’ve added things since february and we see it’s working on all levels so it’s going to be going back…success is not a magic trick you have to go back and you have to rest tonight , get your cash, get your food and come back tomorrow and we’re playing like the best team in, probably, the AHL or up there, so it’s going to be tough.”

Stockton is also led by rookie goaltender Dustin Wolf, who is continuing his stellar first season in the AHL. He’s played in every game of the Heat’s winning streak and leads all American Hockey League goaltenders with 29 wins, ranks third in .925 save percentage (SV%) and fourth in GAA. Goals Against (GAA) of 2.30.

Nevertheless, the Gulls know that the key to their success is to continue to progress on the path they have already taken.

“Another really good team is coming, so I don’t think we’re changing anything,” Kindopp said of the Heat. “Stick to our systems, play them real hard, get a good start and like you said third period, play them deep, be simple and if we keep it up we should get a good result.

About Elaine Morales

Check Also

Lilliput libraries: a small project with a strong community impact

A few years ago, Ruth Arnison, a woman from Dunedin, had an unusual idea for …