Life is a beach for Gulls’ Zolnierczyk

The view is something else and welcome to hockey in San Diego.

The rocking scene at any Gulls game, with a fan base hungry for skating, goals and contact?

Well that, too.

“I’m right off Windansea Beach,” Harry Zolnierczyk said. “It’s a pretty nice spot.”

The Gulls’ veteran left winger has a vista any hockey player — or anyone – would embrace. With the Gulls getting cozy with San Diego again, Zolnierczyk has settled in to the San Diego lifestyle.

“The nice weather is so refreshing,” he said of living in La Jolla. “You leave the rink in morning after getting your work in and there are just tremendous opportunities and things to do, like the beach and golf. You’re able to get your mind off hockey for a bit and it refreshes you.”

But it’s the play on the ice, not sand, which is mostly on Zolnierczyk’s noggin. Right now, both are warm.

“The boys are hot right now,” Zolnierczyk said.

That the Gulls are after winning their fifth straight home game on Tuesday. Zolnierczyk had an assist as the Gulls prevailed, 3-2, in a shootout over San Antonio.

San Diego hits the road on Thursday, tangling with Ontario before cruising up the coast to face San Jose on Saturday.

Sorry Harry, at some point everyone has to leave this beautiful city.

But at least the Gulls are packing confidence in the overhead bin.

“I think we got the right mix right now,” Zolnierczyk said. “We got a lot of offensive power with our guys on blue line. And I think we got a pretty good defensive-minded core and that’s what you want to have to be a successful team to go far in the season, playoffs and hopefully to win a championship.”

Zolnierczyk, 28, should know. 

He’s entering his sixth AHL season and he’s had NHL stints with the Flyers, Penguins and Islanders. There’s not much he hasn’t seen and what he’s seen of the Gulls, he likes.

That goes for behind the bench, too, in coach Dallas Eakins.

“He has honestly been awesome,” said Zolnierczyk, who has two goals and an assist. “He’s fully invested in what he is preaching and we trust him. He is pushing us through the week, the guys are all excited and we enjoy playing for each other right now.”

Playing well to reach the next level is every player’s dream. Zolnierczyk has tasted three times what the NHL offers and he’s eager to return, too.

“Obviously your goal is to play in the NHL,” he said. “But just to get a chance to play hockey for a living…if you ask a lot of guys my age and in my position, they would love this opportunity to do what I’m doing.”

The chance to play in front of San Diego’s rowdy boosters? Zolnierczyk was shocked by the response Tuesday night, which is often a tough draw in minor-league hockey.

“Honestly we were just talking about the turnout,” he said. “To have that was crowd was unbelievable in terms of the turnout. And the fans are passionate, loud and they aren’t just there watching. They are really into it and it makes it an exciting place to play when fans like that are behind you.”

In front of Zolnierczyk, on most nights, is another stunning sunset — that’s a given.

But San Diego being a hockey town?

“You wouldn’t think so,” Zolnierczyk said. “But right now it looks like it will be for a long time.”


+ Contact Jay Paris at Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.



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