Oct 27, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls week of practice is summed up in one word – details.
“We’re pretty disappointed in being 0-3, but getting a good week of practice in here, working hard,” defenseman Brogan Rafferty explained. “Kind of chiming in and focusing on our details and just our work ethic, and the x’s and o’s of the game kind of so we’re all on the same page is great for us. We’ve had a couple really good days of practice and it’s a big weekend coming up for us to try and turn the ship around early.”
A slow start doesn’t define an entire season. Just two years ago, San Diego went winless over its first six games before securing their first victory. From there, the 2019-20 team went on to finish the season with an 18-6-4-1 record (.707%) after Jan. 1, recording points in 23-of-29 games to lead the Pacific Division in wins and points percentage, and rank second in the Western Conference and fourth among American Hockey League clubs in points percentage in that span. The Gulls climbed 19 spots in the league standings (31st to 12th) and nine positions in the Western Conference (15th to sixth) after Nov. 1 (.000 points percentage, 0-6-0-0 record), posting a 30-13-6-2 record (.667%) and gaining points in 38 of the 51 games
Despite some difficult results, the Gulls maintained an upbeat attitude as they prepped for their first true road trip of the season.
“I think it’s been positive,” Rafferty said. “Obviously, the coaching staff is there to push us, but we have to push ourselves as well as players, right? We’re all friends and we all want the best for each other and that’s going to come in practice when we’re pushing each other to be our best all the time. Like I said, it’s a broken record, but the details, the work ethic and the energy in practice is what is going to get us back on the right track here.”
The Gulls look to build off the team’s scorching hot power play. San Diego is 4-for-10 (40%) over their first three games, entering Wednesday as the top man-advantage unit in the AHL. Rafferty is a key part of the success, recording his team-leading three points (1-2=3) on the power play.
“It has been one of the bright sports to our game and it’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s what guys are out there to do, to score goals. That’s our job when we’re put out there so it’s good that it’s rolling a little bit right now. We’re working on that every day as well. Trying to sharpen that up even more because it’s a big momentum shift if you can get a power play goal or even some shots on net and create some energy for the bench and get the team back into the game.”
This played out on Saturday against the Ontario Reign. After Vinni Lettieri scored just 10 seconds into the final frame – a power-play tally to set the franchise record for the team’s fastest goal to start a third period – the Gulls grabbed momentum. They outshot their rival 16-7 and finished the loss with a positive building block.
Now the team looks forward to Tucson, who enters Wednesday as the 15th-ranked penalty kill in the AHL.
“It seems like we’ve found a little bit of something here in the first three games, which is great,” Rafferty said. “That’s awesome to get that start for that season. Not many teams have that, a lot of teams find power play success middle of the season or later on, but we have that going right now. I think we’re developing chemistry day by day, which is awesome to see, and we’re just going to keep it rolling.”
The days on the ice are filled with intense drills and a focus on the details. The Gulls are ready to once again put the lessons learned to the test.
“We’re very excited,” Rafferty said of the upcoming weekend series. “Like I said, this is going to be a great week of practice – it already has been as we’re working hard and we’re sick of losing. No one likes losing so this is a big weekend for us. We’re very excited.”