San Diego Gulls extinguish the Stockton Heat
ASST SPORTS EDITOR
The San Diego Gulls, an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate that feeds into the Anaheim Ducks, got a little too rowdy this Halloweekend. They were taking on the Stockton Heat, the AHL affiliate to the Calgary Flames, and received a penalty straight from the face-off. This game against Stockton on Oct. 30 saw some big hits and lots of penalties amid a sizeable crowd of monsters, witches, referees, and zombies.
The Gulls emerged in both back-to-back games against the Heat this weekend, with an exciting shootout victory on Friday night followed by another win Saturday night. Both games were a 3-2 victory for the Gulls.
Within the first five minutes of play, the Gulls received multiple penalties and provided the Heat with a five on three power play opportunity for a full two minutes. With one minute to go in the first period, the Gulls received their best chance of the game.
A Gulls shot was able to slip through the legs of Heat goalie John Gillies who thought he had covered the puck. Gillies quickly realized the puck had snuck through and was able to make a diving attempt to keep the puck from crossing the line. Despite a constant back and forth game, both goalies came up with some big saves and the first period remained scoreless.
The action continued into the second period when Gulls’ left wing Harry Zolnierczyk took off on a breakaway only to have his shot blocked away by Gillies’ pad. Throughout the majority of the period, both teams couldn’t find the back of the net.
At 14:38 in the second period the Gulls’ were given a power play after Emile Proire’s penalty for interference. On the pursuing power play Gulls’ rookie left wing Nick Ritchie was able to gather a rebound in front on the Heat net and turn it past Gillies for a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later the Gulls looked to double their lead on another power play but it was the Heat’s 23 year-old left wing Bryce Van Brabant who converted on a turn around slap shot through the legs of Gulls’ goaltender John Gibson.
Twenty eight seconds later, on the remaining powerplay, the Gulls were able to take back the lead. Left wing Max Friberg put home a loose puck after center Antoine Langaniere’s shot rebounded to him.
Senior Telly Korbakes was excited to see Gulls’ goaltender John Gibson play. 21 year old Gibson played the entirety of the 2014-2015 season with the Anaheim Ducks and is proving to be a valuable asset this year for the Gulls.
“Their goalie [Gibson] has seen some NHL action,” Korbakes said. “He’s pretty solid in net and is proving to be a great asset to the organization.”
Despite Gibson’s NHL pedigree, the Gulls made a change in net and rookie Matt Hackett replaced Gibson to start the third period. Gibson saw little action throughout the period and was left stranded when he tried to poke check the puck away from Heat Center Bill Arnold.
Arnold took advantage of the sprawling Hackett was able to slide the puck past his outstretched pad and tie the game at 2-2.
The level of play is challenging and highly competitive, but there are discrepancies between AHL and NHL level play. Senior Tom Robinson knows most of the Gulls are rookies, but also knows that he is supporting potential big leaguers.
“I haven’t been to too many hockey games but you could definitely tell they were minor leaguers,” Robinson said. “A lot of the guys were really young so maybe with some development they could get there. There were a couple very good players though that you could think are ready soon.”
With the third period coming to a conclusion the Gulls were going to have to rely on some of those good, young players in the sudden death 3-on-3 five minute overtime period to follow.
As was the theme of the night, the action was non-stop right from the face-off. Gulls center Chris Mueller got a breakaway three minutes in but his low wrist shot was fought off by the Heat’s Gillies.
The Gulls then received a penalty for too many men on the ice with two minutes remaining, giving the Heat a 4-on-3 advantage. The Heat couldn’t overpower the Gulls defense however, so overtime ultimately ended scoreless, further extending the game and sending it into a shootout.
Fans rose to their feet and cheered on Noesen, Ritchie, Friberg, and finally the game winning scorer. Center Mike Sgarbossa provided the winning tally as he went out wide right then faked out Gillies with a beautiful wrist shot right between his legs. The Heat went scoreless in the shootout with several strong saves from Hackett.
Robinson can’t wait for the next two dollar beer Friday and hopes the games will remain rowdy and entertaining with lots of penalties and even more fans. Each Friday for the Gulls hockey games, the Valley View Casino Center offers $2 Bud Lights for 21+ attendees, starting two hours before the game and lasting one hour after puck drop.
The goal is to attract a fanbase for the new franchise and provide some entertainment as fans stock up on beer to get the professional sports arena spectator feel.
“It was a chippy game all night,” Robinson said. “Some really big hits, so it was a really intense atmosphere and the crowd was really into it which made it a lot of fun. I already have a wad of two dollar bills for the next game.”
The Gulls are currently 6-1-0 in their season, their only loss on the road at Bakersfield. The next weekend matchup will be against the San Jose Barracudas on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:05 p.m.