There are four undefeated teams in the American Hockey League. One of them is the San Diego Gulls.
A year ago, the Gulls lost their first 6 games, a franchise record to start the season. This year … things are a little different.
San Diego has won all five games it’s played, a franchise record to start the season. The awful start from a year ago was pre-pandemic, but the Gulls have made sure to remember it so they don’t repeat it.
“If we work hard and outwork other teams, we know our skill and talent will prevail,” says forward Andrew Poturalski. “We kind of preached about out start last year being pretty bad. To get this kind of start this year is huge and we need to just keep going with it.”
Part of the talent base this year is barely old enough to vote. 19-year-old forward Trevor Zegras is tied for the AHL lead in points. 20-year-old goalie Lukas Dostal leads the league in saves and wins and is top-three in save percentage and goals-against average.
The kids have energized the veterans on this club.
“I love what I’m doing. It’s fun to be able to play with these guys,” says defenseman Keegan Lowe. “It’s a special year, special circumstances and there are some special players the AHL gets to experience. It’s fun to be able to work with them and help them a little bit on the pro game but also learn from them and some of the creativity they possess. It’s pretty incredible.”
Lowe is 27 years old. He shares the blue line with 18-year-old Jamie Drysdale, who scored the overtime game-winner on Sunday. Drysdale was the 6th overall pick in the NHL Draft by Anaheim a year ago.
He’s gone from playing against other teenagers to facing grown men and handled the jump with absolutely no issues. In fact, he might even be ahead of schedule.
“He’s dynamic offensively and, on the flip side of that, he’s responsible on the defensive side and that’s important,” says head coach Kevin Dineen. “I work for an ex-NHL defenseman (Ducks general manager Bob Murray) and he looks at that, as do I. When somebody’s playing responsible and solid like that it, I always use the words it bodes well for his future.”
Dineen is also a former NHL defenseman. He spent 18 years in the league before switching to coaching and has had every bit as much success at that. This winning streak gave Dineen his 300th career American Hockey League win, just the 22nd coach in history to reach that milestone.
The Gulls only have 39 games left so, amazingly, they’re already in really good playoff position. But, Tucson and Henderson are 4-0 and in the same division as the Gulls. So, to make sure his team doesn’t take its foot off the pedal, Coach Dineen uses a quote from Stanley Cup-winning coach John Tortorella.
“Safe is death,” says Dineen. “Meaning that if you try to play a conservative game and sit back on things I think it’s just not an effective thought process.”
That’s going to be their approach to the season, and every single one of the games in it, hopefully up until their hoist the Calder Cup.