Gulls Eliminated; Looking Ahead To Next Season

Photo: AHL

By Thomas Harrington

The San Diego Gulls faced off against the Ontario Reign in the first round of the best of three series in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Reign won the first two games, ending San Diego’s season and sending them home early. Before the series began, the Gulls got a surprise reinforcement, as Olen Zellweger joined them after his WHL season ended.

Game 1 Recap

San Diego got off to an amazing start in game one as Josh Lopina scored just 11 seconds into the contest. He joined the Gulls late in the season after he finished his NCAA career and has impressed with his play ever since. Seven and a half minutes later Hunter Drew made it 2-0 and it looked like the Gulls were in control of the game. However, halfway through the period Ontario got on the board, and then Austin Wagner tied it with a shorthanded goal. Ontario scored a powerplay goal with a minute left in the first to make it a 3-2 game.

The Reign then scored the only goal of the second period to double their lead. This one was also on the powerplay. In the third period, Trevor Carrick scored to bring the Gulls back within one, but Ontario scored two quick goals after that, and then scored a shorthanded empty net goal to make it 7-3. Alex Limoges did score in the final minute to make the final score 7-4. Zellweger picked up his first career AHL point on that goal, and Drew Helleson recorded his first career multi-point game in the AHL, assisting on Drew and Carrick’s goals. Dostal allowed six goals before being pulled and Olle Eriksson Ek came in to finish up the game.

Game 2 Recap

With that loss, the Gulls were facing a do-or-die situation the next night. They had an abysmal start, as Ontario scored two goals just over a minute apart less than six minutes into the game. They looked outmatched early on, but San Diego started to turn things around and were matching Ontario’s play by the time the first period ended.

In the second, the Gulls were clearly the better team, and Greg Printz scored a shorthanded goal to finally get San Diego on the board. The Gulls only had one weakness in the second period—their powerplay. It looked bad until the very end of the middle frame, when they finally had good pressure and Brent Gates, Jr. scored off of a great pass from Lucas Elvenes to tie the game.

In the third, neither team found the back of the net, but the Reign started to take over the game again. The game went to overtime, and Ontario was awarded a powerplay early in the extra session. T.J. Tynan scored 2:31 into overtime to end San Diego’s season. Despite the loss, it was a great comeback effort by the Gulls after an awful start. Zellweger was scratched for this game as the Gulls went with a more veteran group on the backend.

Looking Ahead To Next Season

It’s disappointing to see San Diego’s season end so quickly, but it honestly wasn’t that surprising. They just weren’t as good as they have been in previous years, and Ontario has been great all season. Part of that is they didn’t have young players like Trevor Zegras or Jamie Drysdale, or veterans like Andrew Poturalski or Sam Carrick. It also didn’t help that Benoit-Olivier Groulx was injured for both of these games.

Next year’s team could look very different. At forward, Buddy Robinson will be a free agent this summer. It remains to be seen if Lucas Elvenes comes back. Groulx could end up in Anaheim for the entire season. It’s the backend where the most change could occur, however. Trevor Carrick, Greg Pateryn, and Brogan Raferty are all unrestricted free agents, while Brendan Guhle and Jacob Larsson are both restricted free agents.

Given San Diego’s defensive struggles this season, I expect this to be a very different blueline next season. In net, the Gulls could have Dostal and Eriksson Ek as their tandem again, but that’s going to largely depend on what Anaheim does with its goaltending this summer. If they make any kind of deal, Dostal could be the Ducks’ backup. Also, Calle Clang was just signed to his entry-level deal. The expectation before that was that he’d stay in the SHL for another year, but I do wonder if the Ducks are thinking of bringing him stateside sooner than that.

Lopina, Helleson, and Blake McLaughlin all joined San Diego after their NCAA seasons ended, and hopefully all three will be a huge part of this team next year. While the Gulls won’t get any more reinforcements from juniors or the NCAA next season, Anaheim does have a couple of players in Europe who could join the Gulls next season, like Albin Sundsvik or Artyom Galimov.

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May 7th, 2022



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