2019-20: Gulls Season Review


By Thomas Harrington

This past Monday, it was announced that the AHL had canceled the remainder of their season because of the coronavirus outbreak. While unfortunate, it’s also not surprising. Even more so than the NHL, the AHL is a gate driven league and it needs crowds at its games in order to be financially viable, something that probably will not be happening anytime soon. With San Diego’s season over, it’s time to look back on the season that was.

The San Diego Gulls completed their fifth season as Anaheim’s primary AHL affiliate, and it was an up and down season, but one that had a lot of hope. As with the previous years, several players suited up for both Anaheim and San Diego. Overall, 13 players played for both Anaheim and San Diego this past season: Sam Carrick, Troy Terry, Daniel Sprong, Chase De Leo, Max Comtois, Kiefer Sherwood, Isac Lundestrom, Josh Mahura, Brendan Guhle, Jani Hakanpaa, Anthony Stolarz, Max Jones, and Jacob Larsson. Depending on what happens with the resumption of the NHL season, that number could actually go up.

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The Gulls started the season 0-6, losing every game in the month of October, and most of them weren’t even close. However, things started turning around for them in November, as the Gulls won four straight to start off the month. By the new year, the team was still under .500, but a great January and February catapulted San Diego up the standings. Despite their poor start, the Gulls had climbed all the way back into a playoff position when the season was ultimately canceled.

Offensive Outlook

San Diego’s offense wasn’t as strong as the previous season, but they still had some potent weapons. The biggest issue was that so many of their best forwards from the 2018-2019 season spent a lot of time in the NHL this year. Sam Steel spent the entire year in the NHL, while both Terry and Jones played primarily in Anaheim as well. Offensively, the Gulls were once again led by Carrick, who had 23 goals and 43 points in 46 games. While Carrick didn’t match the 61 points that he had the season before, he also played in significantly fewer games because he played in nine games for the Ducks, as well as the season being cut short. He was also the only player to top the 20 goal mark for the Gulls.

Justin Kloos was the only other forward to score 30 points with the Gulls. Sprong had 27 points before he was traded at the deadline. Sherwood was second on the team in goals with 16. Comtois only played in 31 games but still recorded 24 points, while Lundestrom had 21 points in 43 games. Terry only played in 14 games for the Gulls but recorded 16 points. He easily would have surpassed his 41 points from the previous season if he had spent enough time in the AHL. De Leo was San Diego’s most disappointing forward. After recording 55 points in 66 games in the 2018-2019 season, he fell back to 25 points in 51 games this year. Hopefully, he has a big rebound next season.

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Blake Pietila, Alex Broadhurst, and Andrew Poturalski were brought in last summer and all gave the team valuable depth scoring. The Gulls picked up two forwards in trades partway through the season. San Diego brought back former Gull Chris Mueller and he had 15 points in 29 games. The Gulls also got Kyle Criscuolo at the NHL Trade Deadline, but he didn’t record any points while appearing in seven games. Antoine Morand and Brent Gates, Jr. were both playing in their first professional season. Neither one lit the AHL on fire, but Morand’s 54 games were second on the team and led all forwards, while Gates played in 20 games and scored four goals. After missing a significant part of the 2018-2019 season, Jack Kopacka played in a career-high 37 games. Hopefully, he plays a full season in San Diego next year. Alex Dostie broke the 10 goal mark for the first time in his career.

On The Blue Line

Defensively, the Gulls were led by newcomer Chris Wideman. He led the backend with 31 points, which was also second on the team. He was one of two Gulls named to the AHL All-Star team. Mahura had a strong second professional season, cracking the 20 point mark for the first time in his career. Simon Benoit continued to be a physical presence on San Diego’s blueline, while also chipping in with 19 points. Guhle only spent about half of the season in the AHL, but still put up 14 points and played in all situations. Hakanpaa had a rough start to the season and it took a little while for his game to settle down, but as the season progressed, his play noticeably improved, leading to his eventual callup to the NHL at the end of the season. This was Hunter Drew’s first professional season and he suited up for 29 games with the Gulls. He played well enough to land an entry-level contract with Anaheim starting next season.

Inbetween The Pipes

In net, San Diego only used two goaltenders this season: Stolarz and Kevin Boyle. Stolarz was San Diego’s second AHL All-Star and became the team’s starter over the course of the season. Overall, he played in 39 games and had a 21-12-6 record, while Boyle played in 20 games and had a record of 9-7-2. Neither one had a shutout this season. Other than a couple of rough patches, both gave the Gulls a dependable presence in net throughout the season.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on the 2019-2020 season for the Gulls and the AHL as a whole, it will always be a question of what could have been. Despite a horrible start to the year, San Diego had turned their season around and was competing for a playoff spot. Would they have actually clinched one? I like to think that they would have, but who knows.

Once in the playoffs, could they have matched their run to the Conference Finals from a year ago? Would they have gone even further and made it to the Calder Cup Final? Or maybe they would have bowed out in the first round or missed the playoffs entirely. Unfortunately, we’ll never have an answer to those questions. Hopefully, the Gulls and AHL are able to return in full force next season, but right now, even that feels at least somewhat in doubt. Regardless, when the Gulls do return, we’ll be here covering and reporting on them.

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May 14th, 2020


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