|SAN FRANCISCO - The San Diego Toros have had a long, hard climb from a wildcard team to first place in the Gretzky. But after Tuesday night's game in San Francisco, the Toros' path to the division title looks clearer than ever this season. And they may just be able to snag home-ice advantage in the National conference as well.
Ahren Spylo scored two goals for the Toros as they extended their win streak to four with a 4-3 win in San Francisco over the Seals.
"It's been an interesting ride to get to this point in the season," said Spylo. "But we're here now, and everything is laid out in front of us, so we're going to do everything we can to take it."
San Diego now leads second-place Las Vegas by five points in the Gretzky division, despite the Sharks holding two games in hand. But the Toros have shown few signs of slowing down during a torrid second half of the XHL season, and with just nine games left, it seems that they have as good a chance as ever to take the division.
But while things are going smoothly for the Toros, the opposite has taken place for the Seals. San Francisco has now lost three in a row, and finds their lead ahead of the playoff cut-line down to just three points. Los Angeles currently sits two points behind them with two games in hand, and Brooklyn also has a game in hand while they sit three games behind the Seals.
San Diego opened the scoring following a Matt Ryan tripping call 36 seconds into the first as Spylo scored his 16th of the year on the power play 1:10 into play. But the Seals would strike back later in the period thanks to Nino Niederreiter's 21st at 13:55 and Igor Grigorenko's 38th just 12 seconds later.
In the second, the Toros would even the game at 2 on Eric Staal's 33rd of the year 1:10 into the period, but the Seals would strike back at 13:13 on Kristian Huselius' 36th of the year as they took a 3-2 lead into the third.
But the final period would belong to San Diego as they out-shot the Seals 11-7 in the period while accounting or both goals in the period, with both goals coming as a result of undisciplined play by Seals' defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
First, Bieksa was called for flipping the puck over the glass at 2:13 to put the Toros on the power play, which they would convert on as Spylo scored his second of the game and 17th of the year at 2:47 to tie the game at 3. And then Bieksa was whistled for high-sticking at 3:57 to send San Diego to the man advantage once again, which they would then cash in on with Tomas Kaberle's seventh of the year at 4:58 to make it 4-3.
That would be it for the scoring on the night as the Toros moved one win closer to an unlikely division title while the Seals continued their inconsistent play down the stretch.
REIM-NOCERUS - James Reimer stopped 33 of 35 shots for the Philadelphia Wildkatz as they snapped Brooklyn's four-game win streak with a 4-2 home win over Red Bulls HC.
WAYNE'S WORLD - Wayne Simmonds recorded a hat trick and an assist for the Denver Stallions, who extended their lead in the Hull division with a 7-2 drubbing of the North Stars in Minnesota. Patrick Kane also notched a goal and three assists in the win.
HERE COME THE HAWKS - Carl Hagelin, Jason Spezza and Logan Couture each notched two points for the Chicago Blackhawks as they picked up an important win in the race for the last seed in the North American with a 4-2 home win over the Edmonton Oilers.
BACKS TO BASICS - Nicklas Backstrom's game-winner in overtime led the Dallas Freeze to a 3-2 win in Anaheim over the Ducks.
TONIGHT: There are seven games on the schedule, highlighted by a national doubleheader in both the U.S. and Canada. At 7 PM EST, NBCSN and Sportsnet will air a huge matchup between New England and Toronto, and then at 9:30, it will be another important battle as Las Vegas visits Winnipeg.
2016 XHL SEASON - All times Eastern
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Denver (white) at Ottawa (black) - 7:30 PM - Altitude, SN Ontario
Quebec (white) at Vancouver (blue) - 10 PM - TSN Quebec, RDS, SN Pacific
Las Vegas (white) at Winnipeg (blue) - 9:30 PM - NBCSN, Sportsnet
New York (blue) at Montreal (red) - 7:30 PM - MSG, SN Montreal, TVA
New England (white) at Toronto (black) - 7 PM - NBCSN, Sportsnet
Philadelphia (white) at Greensboro (maroon) - 7 PM - CSN Philadelphia, FS South
New Orleans (white) at Anaheim (orange) - 10 PM - Cox Sports Television, FS West