Beware the Ides of March.
Sure that saying is supposed to apply to March 15 but for opponents of the San Diego Gulls it likely applies to the entire month.
After a slow start to the season the Gulls have become one of the best teams in the American Hockey League, with the 4th-best winning percentage among all 30 teams. Needless to say this team is feeling pretty good about itself right about now.
“With winning comes fun,” said Gulls Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “Through guys practicing hard and executing comes fun. I know they’re having a ton of fun right now because it’s like that old simple saying: Winning’s better than losing.”
That is not just a great quote from Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham. It’s a stone cold fact (unless you’re the Lakers, who are trying to lose as much as possible but that’s a different story entirely). Over the last few months the Gulls have proven themselves to be a dangerous club as the playoffs near.
“I think our guys are a real settled crew,” said Eakins. “They’re a real confident crew and absolutely not rattled by any building in this league. That’s an important mind set. You can look through the league and find teams that are very good at home and they’re terrible on the road.”
That is evident in the numbers. How about this San Diego split:
16-7-1-1 at home
15-7-1-1 on the road
They can win anywhere, unlike other clubs like the rival Ontario Reign who have 17 wins at home but just 11 on the road.
Now this is not to say the Gulls don’t enjoy playing at Valley View Casino Center. They have tried to foster a home-ice advantage and so far it’s working.
“It’s loud on that ice,” said Eakins. “I really equate our fans to being like an extra skater. The atmosphere in the there is a great one. I know that our players feed off of it whether we’re up or we’re down and that’s an important ingredient.”
The Gulls have won eight of their last nine games at home and the lone loss came when the locker room was ravaged by a flu bug.
As San Diego sports fans know, when America’s Finest City have something to cheer for this place can turn a building in to one of the loudest facilities on the planet.
The Gulls are averaging 8,734 fans per home game, the 3rd-best attendance in the American Hockey League and far and away the best in the Western Conference (nearly 700 fans per game more than the Grand Rapids Griffins). Since the Chargers left the Gulls have had a pair of sellouts and with the recent success on the ice Eakins can issue a warning to anyone coming in to their arena.
“You talk about teams coming in to hostile buildings … I would not want to be a visiting team coming in to our building. I think it is an intimidating building and obviously we want to keep that atmosphere going.”
So for whichever opposing teams that have to play in San Diego perhaps we should amend the first sentence to this story:
Beware the Ice of March.