The San Diego Gulls looked to close out their series with the Texas Stars in game 4 of the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Coming off a 6 – 1 victory that gave the Gulls the series lead, the club hoped to capitalize on power play chances and taking advantage of home-ice advantage and getting the match-ups Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins utilized in game 3.
Gulls starting goaliev Anton Khudobin took a hit to the head after he collided with a teammate on an odd-man rush early in the second and backup Matt Hackett, a fan favorite, found himself in net replacing Khudobin. The teams traded two quick goals as Gulls Shea Theodore and Stars Brendan Ranford both found the back of the net, halfway through the first period. As the period played on, the Stars continued to show their frustration resulting in a late period penalty putting them on the penalty kill with only a minute remaining. While the Stars held the Gulls back for the remainder of the period, Stars defenseman Julius Honka took a two-minute high-sticking penalty.
Starting the second period on the two-man advantage it only took the Gulls seven seconds to find the back of the net as Chris Mueller beat Stars goaltender Jack Campbell on the rush. Still on the power play only a minute later the Gulls once again buried one with a beautiful shot by Antoine Laganiere. The Gulls continued through the second with total puck domination and controlling every aspect of physical play. Joseph Camarossa finished off a rebound from a Kyle MacKinnon breakaway chance, putting the Gulls up 4 – 1 at the halfway mark and resulting in a goaltender change for the Stars as Maxime Lagace replaced the struggling Campbell. The Gulls found themselves in a lot of penalty trouble throughout the period but managed to close out the period without giving up a goal.
The Stars frustrated play continued through the third after they failed to convert on a 5-minute power play and losing their composure, putting themselves back in the box. The Gulls continued to use their power play to continue dominating the Stars when half-way through the third period Ondrej Kase put the Gulls up 5 to 1. The Stars Brett Ritchie picked up a loose puck with five minutes remaining in regulation and was followed by Texas pulling their goalie immediately after as the teams desperation set in on the brink of elimination. After an empty net goal from Gulls forward Joseph Camarossa, the Gulls secured their clubs first ever playoff round victory, eliminating the Texas Stars in four games.
San Diego’s power play dominated the game and head coach Dallas Eakins was well aware. The team struggled the first two games but really found its drive after that.
“The first thing you want to do as a coach when things are not going well like they did in the first couple of games is to really go in there and coach it hard and change something,” Eakins said about the power play. “Our power play had been getting it done from game one, we were a top five power play all season and we just took a breath and went back to our power play.”
When asked about facing their bitter rivals, the Ontario Reign in the next round, Eakins said they staff would take a 24-hour breather and reevaluate. “They are a big team, like us,” and said they may have to insert some bigger guys they didn’t need against Texas, likely someone like Brian McGrattan, who has long been the go to strong-arm against the Reign.
Nick Ritchie – Michael Sgarbossa – Chris Mueller
Antoine Laganiere – Matt Bailey – Corey Tropp
Stefan Noesen – Chris Wagner – Ondrej Kase
Kalle Kossila – Kyle MacKinnon – Joseph Camarossa
Jaycob Megna – Brandon Montour
Andy Welinski – Shea Theodore
Andrew O’Brien – Brian Cooper