Series Preview: Gulls vs Barracuda

Graphic: AHL

By Thomas Harrington

For the the third time in four seasons, the San Diego Gulls have made the Calder Cup Playoffs. The best of five series will start this Wednesday in San Diego, and game two will be on Thursday in San Diego in well. The rest of the series will take place in San Jose: game three will be next Monday, game four next Wednesday, and game five on Thursday.

The Goalies

Both teams have a strong tandem in net, with San Jose’s duo having better numbers than San Diego’s. The Gulls will likely turn to Kevin Boyle for this series. He played in 43 games and had a record of 24-13-2, with a 2.90 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. Boyle made his NHL debut back in February and picked up a shutout in his first career NHL start. His backup will be Jeff Glass, who the Gulls acquired partway through the season. Glass played in 19 games and had a record of 9-5-1, with a 3.10 goals against average, a .897 save percentage, and a shutout. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he was much better in San Diego than he was with Toronto early in the season. San Diego’s third option in net is Angus Redmond. He’s spent most of the season in the ECHL, and played well for Jacksonville to help get them to the playoffs.

San Jose’s top two goalies are Josef Korenar and Antoine Bibeau. They pretty much split the season, but I think Korenar will start this series. He played in 34 games and had a record of 23-8-2, a goals against average of 2.54, a .911 save percentage, and four shutouts. Bibeau played in 35 games and had a record of 16-13-5, a goals against average of 2.89, a .904 save percentage, and one shutout.

The Defense

Unlike San Diego’s previous playoff runs, their defense is not the team’s strength as there is not a Shea Theodore or Brandon Montour on the team. However, it’s still a strong group with lots of NHL experience. Trevor Murphy was a midseason acquisition, and he’s been one of San Diego’s best defensemen since his arrival. Jaycob Megna is San Diego’s captain, and he had another solid season as one of the Gulls’ veteran players. Andy Welinski and Josh Mahura led San Diego’s defense in scoring, both finishing with 19 points. Both would have had higher point totals, but Welinski played in 26 games for the Ducks and Mahura spent 17 games in Anaheim. Rookie Simon Benoit played in 65 games, tops on the team among defensemen and was a steady presence on the backend all season long. He was actually on an AHL only deal for most of the season, but his play was good enough for Anaheim to sign him to an entry-level deal. Patrick Sieloff was acquired at the deadline, and he brought a physical presence to San Diego’s blueline. Keaton Thompson has been in the AHL for several seasons, and he was a consistent presence on the team’s bottom pair.

Andrej Sustr and Jake Dotchin are a pair of NHL veterans who spent a lot of time in San Diego this year and will hopefully help lead the Gulls deep in the playoffs. Jacob Larsson spent most of the year in Anaheim, but he’s returned to the Gulls for their playoff run. Brendan Guhle is eligible to play for the Gulls, but he was injured for the most of the end of the regular season. He returned to play in Anaheim’s final game, but he only played about six minutes. It remains to be seen if he’ll be healthy enough to play for the Gulls. San Diego has a lot of options when it comes to their defensive core, and could opt to play seven defensemen, something they did several times towards the end of the year.

While San Diego played a ton of different defensemen this year, San Jose has a very clear top six: Nick DeSimone, Kyle Wood, Jeremy Roy, Cavan Fitzgerald, Jacob Middleton, and Keaton Middleton. All six played in at least 57 games, and no other defenseman played in more than 30 games. DeSimone is their offensive weapon, recording 46 points in 65 games, with Wood being second with 35 points. While none of San Diego’s blueliners have those kinds of numbers, if Welinski had played a full season in the AHL, he likely would have. San Jose’s defense is a very strong one, and they have one huge advantage over San Diego: how much they’ve been able to play together. The Sharks were relatively healthy this year, and did not have to call up as many players as the Ducks had to from San Diego.

The Forwards

This year, San Diego’s strength has been their forward depth, led by Sam Carrick, who set a team record with 32 goals and 61 points in 61 games. Newcomer and SoCal native Chase De Leo, acquired for Nicolas Kerdiles last summer, was second on the team with 55 points. He also led the team with 66 games played. Carrick was the team’s only 30 goal scorer, but Sam Steel, Corey Tropp, and De Leo all scored 20 goals. Steel and Troy Terry led San Diego’s rookies with 41 points each. If not for their time in Anaheim, both would have likely cracked the 50 point mark. Justin Kloos was a midseason acquisition and had 15 points in 25 games, and was playing very well towards the end of the season. Ben Street had 26 points in 32 games, and finished the season with a five game point streak, including five points in the final two games of the season. Other forwards who could make a big impact in this series include Kalle Kossila, Adam Cracknell, Max Jones, Kiefer Sherwood, Matt Berry, Jack Kopacka and Kevin Roy. It’s a very deep group, and if they can stay healthy, the Gulls could have the offensive edge in this series.

The Barracuda had three players break the 40 point mark, with Alexander True leading the way with 55 points, followed by Francis Perron and Dylan Gambrell. Gambrell was their top rookie scorer, with 45 points. Other Barracuda forwards to keep an eye on in this series include Jayden Halbgewachs, Jonathan Dahlen, John McCarthy, Maxim Letunov, and Jon Martin. While there isn’t as much depth as what San Diego has, it’s still a very dangerous group.

The Season Series

The Gulls and Barracuda faced off against each other 10 times this season, with the Gulls picking up six wins. The Gulls had their biggest victory of the season in San Jose, when they won 8-3. A number of these games saw both teams win by large margins. However, the final two games of the series both ended with a score of 4-3, and both teams won one of those games. I’d expect this series to be more like those last two games, rather than the earlier, blowout victories.

The Gulls are happy to be back in the playoffs, but they have their sights set on a deep playoff run. San Jose has the edge in net and on defense, but San Diego has the deeper forward group. The Gulls will be looking to avenge their second round playoff loss from two years ago. This series should be a ton of fun to watch, and it all starts tonight!

Below is the schedule for Round 1.

Graphic: San Diego Gulls

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April 17th, 2019


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