Gulls lose first AHL home game to rival Ontario Reign
The San Diego Gulls dominated the shots and at times overpowered Ontario’s reign in their home opener Friday night at Pechanga Arena, but suffered a 2-1 loss in front of a crowd excited.
The Gulls (1-2) finished with a 45-36 shots lead and killed all four Ontario power play opportunities, but lost due to a combination of goaltending excellence from Reign Pheonix Copley, a power play that went 1 for 4 and a failure to cash in on better chances such as Blake McLaughlin’s miss on a second-period penalty shot.
Ontario’s Aidan Dudas and Alan Quine scored third period goals for the Reign (3-1), while Copley finished with 44 saves.
Rocco Grimaldi, in his first season with the Gulls, scored a power-play goal with 3:46 left, and coach Roy Sommer pulled goaltender Lukas Dostal for an extra forward with just under two. minutes to go, but the Gulls failed to get the even count.
The teams meet tonight at the Toyota Center in Ontario for the second of eight matchups this season.
The Gulls scored 11 goals in two games at Grand Rapids last weekend and created several juicy chances in the first two periods against Copley, including individual breakaways from Grimaldi and Brayden Tracey, as well as the missed penalty shot of McLaughlin and appeared to be in good condition.
Dostal bounced back from a tough outing in last Saturday’s 8-5 loss at Grand Rapids to make several impressive saves to keep his team close.
It was the kind of game that wasn’t likely to be won on a nice goal, but rather something dirty, like a rebound or a score on a funny rebound.
That’s exactly how Ontario scored the first goal of the game. At 3:04 of the third period, Dostal made a save on a rebound and a throw-in attempt from Akil Thomas, but the puck bounced off Dudas, who managed to get it past an out-of-position Dostal stick.
Quine made it 2-0 at 11:13 of the third when he landed a wrist shot past Dostal.
Grimaldi was player of the game for San Diego, finishing with 11 shots, including two that appeared to hit the post, and consistently creating chances for his team.
Forward and team captain Chase De Leo, who scored twice in the season-opening win at Grand Rapids, missed his second game with an undisclosed injury. De Leo, who is back in San Diego for his second stint as a Gull after playing last season for the Utica Comets/New Jersey Devils, stepped out in his jersey and jeans and helped get the crowd going before the match waving a rally towel.
The Gulls fired 15 players from last season’s 28-33-4-3 squad and added nine newcomers along with an all-new coaching staff. To help bond off the ice, players, coaches and support staff went on a 24-hour camping trip Monday through Tuesday mornings in the San Diego area. “It was nice to get the guys together a bit, to get to know each other better off the ice,” said defenseman Austin Strand, who came to San Diego after four seasons with the Reign/Los Angeles Kings. “That was cool.”
Carter is a freelance writer.