Shorthanded Gulls Happy To Be Home

San Diego's pro hockey team is at a manpower disadvantage in the Calder Cup Playoffs

For the Gulls, splitting the first two games of their Calder Cup Playoffs series in San Jose against the Barracuda was a good thing. They just kind of wished they’d played better in the process.

“Jhonas Enroth got the first one for us,” said Gulls Head Coach Dallas Eakins, referring to the play of his goaltender in Friday night’s 3-2 overtime win. Enroth made 36 saves while the Gulls offense only squeezed off 16 shots total.

“We didn’t play very well and Jhonas was able to steal that for us,” said Eakins, who is likely going to need his goalie to play out of his gourd a few more times in this series. The Gulls have had their depth tested in a big way.

“We’re in a circumstance with going out to practice today, I’m looking at my board, we have 10 guys that are either injured or up with (Anaheim). That’s our circumstance and it’s certainly been our team all year. We’ve used 52 players to date, most in the league and we didn’t get here by feeling sorry for ourselves. We got here by dealing with our circumstance, digging in our heels and finding a way, and we have full faith in the players that are getting the opportunity in our lineup to step up and seize the opportunity.”

The Ducks are going to a Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers, which will take place on Wednesday, the same day the Gulls and Barracuda play Game 3 of their series at Valley View Casino Center. If Anaheim loses then San Diego will get reinforcements like forward Nick Kerdiles, who was a big contributor in the Gulls’ first round win over the Ontario Reign. If Anaheim wins, the manpower in San Diego might be further tested.

“The Ducks are dealing with their own injuries and obviously our guys up there are doing the best they can to try to help them,” said Eakins. “We’re pulling for them. We want our organization to win up top and to win here. We never worry about call-ups. It’s what we’re here for. We’re happy when guys go, at all positions. It provides opportunity for someone else’s growth. We’re ready for all scenarios here. We’ve got a number of goalies; we’ve got extra D, extra forwards. It’s just up to the guys coming in to fill those holes with some passion and a high compete level.”

Included on that list is Escondido native Austin Ortega, who scored four goals in six regular season games with his home town team and was in the starting lineup for the first two games of the series in San Jose. Now he gets to play his first playoff game in front of a San Diego crowd that he knows well.

“Obviously just your home crowd, what you’re comfortable with, being at home, being able to prepare like you always do in your daily routine rather than being in someone else’s home or a different city that you’re not comfortable with,” said Ortega.

The Gulls won all five games against San Jose at Valley View Casino Center during the regular season. They get three straight against the Barracuda there this week, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Keep their perfect record against San Jose alive and the Gulls will be in in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Final.

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