San Diego Gulls: Lack of sample size presents a problem against Colorado Eagles

San Diego Gulls

Credit: San Diego Gulls

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San Diego Gulls
Credit: San Diego Gulls

Boasting a 3-0 record to begin the year, the San Diego Gulls will welcome in the Colorado Eagles for a back-to-back series beginning Saturday night.

Coming off their thrilling last-second victory over the Ontario Reign on Wednesday night, the San Diego Gulls welcome in the Colorado Eagles for a two-game, back-to-back set beginning on Saturday evening. The Gulls are a perfect 3-0 to begin the 2021 season, receiving significant contributions from Trevor Zegras, Chase De Leo, and goalie Lukas Dostal. The game against the Reign was a good litmus test early in the season for San Diego, given how much talent exists on Ontario’s roster. Despite a penalty-filled third period, the Gulls continued to battle all night and stole a confidence-boosting win.

“It was pretty much special teams that whole third period,” Zegras told 97.3 The Fan on Thursday. “I don’t know what Keegan Lowe was doing down at the hash marks, but he ended up getting the puck and putting it in for us, which was pretty exciting.”

With the day off on Thursday and Friday, the Gulls now turn their attention to a bit of an unknown in the Colorado Eagles, who have yet to play a game this season. They are the only team in the Pacific Division who has yet to get going in the 2021 season, which could present a bit of a challenge for the Gulls, given there is no game tape to review.

A quick review of the 2019-2020 season – the Colorado Eagles finished second in the Pacific with a 34-18-3 record allowing a division-best 162 goals in 56 games before the season was prematurely shut down to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eagles leading goal-scorer Sheldon Dries has been up with the NHL club this season, seeing time in just one game while spending the majority of his time on the team’s taxi squad. In the 19-20 season, Dries tallied 21 goals and 35 points in 50 games, including 12 goals on the man advantage.

Similarly, defenseman Jacob MacDonald led the way from the blue line, tallying 16 goals and 26 assists, including seven power play goals, but he’s been up with the NHL club to start the season as well. Aside from the defensive unit, the Eagles have seen a significant turnover between the pipes. Last year’s goalies in Hunter Miska and Adam Werner have been promoted to the NHL and currently on loan overseas, respectively.

The Eagles still feature T.J. Tynan, an excellent facilitator of the puck, as demonstrated by his team-leading 42 assists last year, and Jayson Megna, who put up 18 goals and 34 points in 43 games a year ago. But seeing that Colorado has yet to play a game, the Gulls have the upper hand going into this matchup, as they have theoretically shaken off any rust that comes in the early goings of a season. That said, San Diego has only last year’s film to go off of in preparation, but as noted, many players have either graduated to the NHL or moved on from the club entirely.

Through the first three games, the Gulls have received outstanding performances from goalie Lukas Dostal, who currently leads the AHL with three wins and a .956 save percentage. Head coach Kevin Dineen spoke highly of his primary netminder after Wednesday’s win.

“I’ve mentioned it before, but he’s got some composure in there where he makes things look kind of chill, but when it gets fast and furious, in front of the net, you just see that battle come out,” Dineen said. “He’s got that special intangible that bodes very well for his future.”

Look for the Gulls to lean on Dostal while assessing how Colorado attacks the offensive zone early on in Saturday night’s game. Puck drop is set for 7 pm from FivePoint Arena in Irvine, California.

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