Gulls soaring in Pacific Division standings
SCOTT TOZZI | CONTRIBUTOR
The San Diego Gulls finished the month of February with an impressive 5-2 win over the San Jose Barracuda.
Just one day after they beat the San Antonio Rampage 5-1, completing a successful two game sweep.
Chris Wagner and Nic Kerdiles shared the top scoring honors with two goals apiece, and goalie Anton Khudobin saved 41 of the 43 shots he faced, including a 21 shot frenzy in the second period that San Jose barraged.
Kerdiles’ first of two goals happened at 14:29 in the first period giving the Gulls a quick 2-0 lead.
Kerdiles’ goal came just one minute and eight seconds after Brian McGrattan opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season.
Wagner also scored twice, his second came on an empty net goal late in the third period, thwarting any potential Barracuda comeback. Wagner was recently acquired by the Anaheim Ducks’ organization from the Colorado Avalanche and sent down to the Gulls on Feb. 25, just two days prior to the game against San Jose.
It didn’t take long for Wagner to showcase his wide range of skills on the ice. Along with his speed and nimbleness, he also showed a rough side by body checking San Jose players into the boards.
He already has made an impression on his new coach, as well as the flock of Gulls fans nestled into the Valley View Casino Center.
Khudobin’s 41 save performance was the highlight of the night.
For the month of February, he is 7-1-1 with a dependable 2.20 goals against average.
The 29-year-old Khudobin, who was born in Kazakhstan and played professionally in Russia was picked 206th in the NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild in 2004.
After the game Khudobin discussed the difference between playing in Russia and the United States.
“In Russia there is a certain demand that meets their expectations than in the United States,” Khudobin said. “I had fun playing hockey in both countries, but it’s a real pleasure playing in San Diego where it’s mostly sunny.”
This win has given the Gulls a 6-1-1 record against the Barracuda with three more games to go in their head-to-head matchups.
The Gulls’ win has also put them in sole position of third place in the Pacific Division. The Gulls have been astonishingly productive when scoring the first goal of the game. Out of the 50 games they have played, San Diego has scored first in only 23 of them.
However, when they achieve this, the team is a remarkable 22-0-0-1, which produces a .977 point percentage.
The Gulls have epitomized the score first, win first phrase.
This is the Gulls’ first year back in San Diego after leaving in 2006. Their relocation from Norfolk, Virginia could very well be a blessing in disguise.
With the San Diego Chargers potentially finding themselves on their way to Los Angeles, the Gulls’ return has been an enlightening welcome. The proof would be in the 9,600 people in attendance.
Mark Santiago, a 26-year-old San Diego native is one of many who is excited and pumped-up about the Gulls relocation.
“It’s so awesome that hockey is back in San Diego,” Santiago said. “It’s exciting and so fast-paced!”
The Gulls’ return could mean so much more than just playing hockey. They could be representing a symbol of hope that the San Diegans might need.
The Gulls are very much in playoff contention and are pursuing their sixth AHL championship. They have back-to-back home games on March 4 and 5 against another Pacific Division rival, the Stockton Heat.