The San Diego Gulls assured themselves of home-ice advantage in the first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs Wednesday evening with a 5-1 victory over the Bakersfield Condors at Valley View Casino Center.
The Gulls will open the best-of-five series against the Ontario Reign April 21 at Valley View Casino Center. The rest of the series will alternate between the two arenas. Game 2 will be played April 22 at Citizens Business Bank Arena and Game 3 April 28 at Valley View Casino Center.
Game 4, if necessary, would be played May 1 at Citizens Business Bank Arena, and Game 5, May 2 at Valley View Casino Center.
“We’ve been very good at home this year so having home-ice against Ontario is big for us,” said Gulls coach Dallas Eakins, whose team is 22-9-1-1 at home. “We really feel like our crowd is an extra skater out there and that’s a big advantage.”
From the Gulls perspective, the series is 4-4-1-1, while the Reign leads 6-3-1-0 from its perspective. Ontario, the Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate, has one victory each in overtime and in a shootout, while the Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate, have one overtime victory.
The two teams will meet twice more to conclude the regular season, Friday at Citizens Business Bank Arena and Saturday at Valley View Casino Center.
The Gulls inaugural AHL season ended with a four games to one loss to Ontario in the Pacific Division Finals.
Defenseman Keaton Thompson and Nick Sorensen both had a goal and an assist Wednesday at the Gulls ended a three-game losing streak before a crowd announced at 7,271.
In his first game since March 8 after being sidelined for eight games by an injury, Sorensen’s goal 15 minutes, 12 seconds into the second period gave the Gulls (41-20-3-2) a lead they would never relinquish.
Kevin Roy increased their lead to 3-1 5:20 into the third period when he deflected Nate Guenin’s shot past Bakersfield goaltender Nick Ellis.
Antoine Laganiere scored an empty net goal with 2:12 left off assists by Nic Kerdiles and Thompson. Tyler Morely put a shot past Ellis with 0.1 second remaining.
“We haven’t scored a lot of goals lately,” Eakins said. “Getting five tonight will definitely help a lot of guys’ confidence going forward.”
Thompson opened the scoring 11:09 into the first period off assists by Kyle MacKinnon and Sorensen. Josh Currie scored what would prove to be the lone goal for the Condors, the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate, 14:37 into the first period.
Gulls goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced, including all 12 in the second period and all 13 in the third.
Ellis stopped 20 of the 24 shots he faced.
In a game where Gulls defenseman Andrew Welinski was called for both penalties, the Gulls killed both of Bakersfield’s power-play opportunities.
—City News Service