Gulls Season Recap

Photo: San Diego Gulls

By Thomas Harrington

The San Diego Gulls’ season came to an end Monday night, as they lost game three of the best of three series to the Bakersfield Condors.

Despite the loss in the Pacific Division playoffs, the Gulls had a largely successful season. Given the struggles that the AHL has faced this past season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing any games at all has to be considered a victory. Completing the season and having one of the most dangerous offenses in the league made it even more so for the Gulls. Even more impressive, the Gulls played 44 regular season games, tops in the AHL. Ontario’s 40 games was second, while some teams played fewer than 25 games.

Despite how it ended, the Gulls were one of the better teams in the AHL. In their sixth season as Anaheim’s affiliate, 11 players appeared in games for both the Gulls and Ducks: Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Sam Carrick, Josh Mahura, Andrew Agozzino, Sonny Milano, Andy Welinski, Vinni Lettieri, Simon Benoit, Chase De Leo, and Anthony Stolarz.

That’s actually less than last year. If this had been a full season in both the NHL and AHL, there likely would have been more crossover between the two teams. There were also some players who made it to the taxi squad but did not make it into Anaheim’s lineup.

After a terrible start to the 2019-2020 season, the Gulls knew they had to have a better start to this season, and they came roaring out of the gate. They had a 6-0 start to the season and won their first seven home games. However, the Gulls did struggle on the road early in the season, dropping their first four games away from home. They finished the season with a record of 26-17-7 and a .602 winning percentage.

Gulls Had Plenty Of Offensive Talent

When healthy and with a full lineup, this was one of the deepest offensive teams that the Gulls have had. However, between injuries, callups to Anaheim, and the taxi squad, only two players played in every game for the Gulls this season.

Andrew Poturalski led the team and the league with 34 assists and 43 points, and was one of the two players to hit the 44 game mark. He was also one of two Gulls players named to the AHL All-Star Team.

Zegras actually led the team in points-per-game, scoring 21 points in just 17 games. If he’d spent the entire season in the AHL, he would have had a chance to lead the league in scoring. Lettieri was San Diego’s other premier forward, scoring 26 points in 22 games. De Leo had a nice bounce back season with 35 in 37 games.

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In his first full season with the team, Agozzino had 27 points in 31 games. Captain Carrick had 24 points in 27 games, and was one of San Diego’s most effective players every time he was on the ice. Benoit-Olivier Groulx led San Diego rookies with 29 points in 42 games.

Despite only playing in 23 games, Alex Limoges was tied for second among rookies with 21 points. Limoges had played college hockey for four years and joined the Gulls on an AHL only deal. With the season he had, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him land an NHL entry-level contract this offseason.

Bryce Kindopp also had a solid rookie year, scoring 20 points in 39 games and getting time on the penalty kill. Jacob Perreault was supposed to be in the OHL this season, but with them not playing because of the pandemic, he ended up with 17 points in 27 games in the AHL. Jack Badini only had one assist, but settled in nicely as the team’s fourth line center as the season went along.

Blue Line Mix

San Diego’s blueline was a solid mixture of veteran players with up and coming prospects. Keegan Lowe was the only other player to play in all 44 games, while Trevor Carrick, Benoit, and Hunter Drew all played in over 30 games.

Mahura led the defense in scoring with 20 points in 28 games, and finished fifth in defensemen scoring in the AHL. He was the other San Diego player named to the AHL All-Star Team. Rookie Nikolas Brouillard was second on the team with 14 points in 29 games.

Despite only playing in 14 games, Drysdale recorded 10 points and was tied in points-per-game with Mahura among defensemen. Kodie Curran was brought over from Europe, and was tied for the team lead in goals by defensemen with six. Axel Andersson joined the Gulls late in the season, and appeared in 17 games while scoring two goals and five points.

In Between The Pipes

San Diego used four goaltenders this season, but rookies Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek saw the majority of the action. Veterans Anthony Stolarz and Jeff Glass played a combined seven games. Dostal appeared in 24 games and had a record of 15-9 with a 2.87 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

Eriksson Ek appeared in 15 games and had a record of 8-6-1 with a 3.14 goals against average and .901 save percentage. Many nights, especially when several veterans were in Anaheim or on the taxi squad, either Dostal or Eriksson Ek was the team’s best player.

Gulls Drop Series To Condors

The Calder Cup will not be awarded for the second straight season. However, the Pacific Division decided to have a tournament of its own to determine the best team in the division. They were the only division in the AHL to do this, and several players in the division did not want to play. The Gulls faced the Condors in a best of three series.

The Gulls won game one by a score of 5-3, and Zegras, Carrick, and Agozzino led the team with three points each, while Drsydale and Lettieri had two points each. Dostal saved 39 of 42 shots. Game two saw the teams tied at 2-2 after regulation, but Bakersfield scored just 49 seconds into overtime to secure the win.

In the final game, the Gulls were under siege, and Dostal was the only reason the game was close. After three periods, the game was tied at 1-1, and the Condors scored in overtime to win the game and series. Dostal stopped 43 of 45 shots.

Final Thoughts

While the AHL was able to complete a regular season, things were still not normal for any team in the minors. The 2020-2021 Gulls were a very good team, and the question will always be what could they have done in a normal year. Next year, Zegras and Drysdale will be in the NHL, while Perreault will be back in the OHL.

However, if they bring back Poturalski, Carrick, and Lettieri, then the Gulls could still be a very good team. Brayden Tracey will play a full season and hopefully put up some points, while college prospects like Blake McLaughlin and Jack Perbix could sign their entry-level contracts this summer and be with the team next season. Hopefully Groulx, Kindopp, and other rookies can take a big step next season and become elite point producers at the AHL level.

The biggest question mark is in net. Will Stolarz be Anaheim’s backup, or will Dostal be given that coveted position? If both are gone from San Diego, the team could struggle, but as long as the Gulls have one of those two goaltenders, they should be a competitive team most nights. However, Eriksson Ek could also be up to the task of being their starter next year. The only guarantee in net is that Eriksson Ek will be in the mix for San Diego’s starting job.

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May 27th, 2021


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