The San Diego Gulls suffered their third consecutive defeat on Wednesday night at the Stockton Arena, dropping a 4-0 decision in front of 3,113 fans. John Gibson stopped a season-high 36 shots from the Heat (4-5-0-2), including 29 in the first two periods, but an own goal and empty netter late helped seal the Stockton victory. Derek Grant scored twice for the Heat and backup goaltender Kevin Poulin made 21 saves for his first shutout of the season.
After a tense opening fifteen minutes, which saw puck possession controlled by Stockton, it was an unfortunate turnover that led to the Heat’s eventual game-winning goal. A pass intended for the Gulls’ Kenny Ryan up the boards instead turned into a turnover when Ryan lost and edge and fell to the ice. Turner Elson pounced on the loose puck and directed a hard drive to the back post, re-directed by Derek Grant for his fourth goal of the year and a 1-0 lead at 17:58 of the first.
Forced to kill a pair of penalties in the second period, the Gulls (9-4-0-1) saw the ice tip toward their zone as Stockton directed sixteen shots at Gibson over the twenty-minute stanza. Gibson stopped them all, including a spectacular three-save combination that saw him make a pad, blocker and glove save all within seconds of one another.
Entering the third trailing by just a 1-0 count, the Gulls faced an unfortunate bounce that caromed behind Gibson, 8:22 into the period. As defenseman Shea Theodore attempted to carry the puck around and behind Gibson’s net, it instead deflected off Gibson’s skate from behind and across the goal line for a 2-0 Stockton lead. The goal was credited to nearest skater Freddie Hamilton.
San Diego head coach Dallas Eakins pulled his goalie with 4:48 remaining in the third, but the Gulls were unable to best the Heat’s Kevin Poulin (2-0-1), who picked up his first shutout of the season in just his third start. An empty net goal by Blair Riley at 16:34 sealed the result and Grant closed the scoring with his second goal of the game, a snap shot that was awarded on video review with just seven seconds remaining in the contest.
San Diego boards a plane on Thursday for their first out-of-state trip of the season, traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan where they will take on the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. PST, and the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. PST.