May 7, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Justin Auger’s goal 11:55 into sudden death overtime gave the Ontario Reign a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls at Valley View Casino Center. The Reign take a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven AHL Pacific Division Finals series, with Game 3 set for Sunday night in Ontario.
Auger brought the game to an end and sent a crowd of 7,621 to the exits with his rebound goal in the mid-slot, deflecting home a Kevin Gravel shot after Adrian Kempe won the offensive zone draw at the right circle. His second goal of the playoffs ended the first OT game for the Gulls in their Calder Cup Playoffs history.
Matt Hackett made 42 saves in a spectacular performance in net for the Gulls (0-2), single-handedly powering San Diego into extra time by making multiple bonus saves.
The lone Gulls goal came 3:22 into the first period, as Chris Mueller fed Nick Ritchie with a pass from behind the Ontario end line, through skaters’ legs and to the stick of Ritchie, who beat Budaj high over the blocker for his fourth goal of the playoffs and a 1-0 San Diego lead.
From there, the Gulls had difficulty generating offense against the top-ranked defense in the AHL. Ontario out-shot San Diego 44-27 on the game and killed all four of the Gulls’ power plays.
Starting the third period with a man advantage after Chris Wagner was called for charging late in the prior frame, the Reign manufactured their equalizer when Kris Newbury, skating laterally in the mid-slot between the circles, deflected Vincent LoVerde’s blue line drive for a power play score at 1:39 and a 1-1 tie.
Hackett was repeatedly asked to hold the line for San Diego, stopping Nic Dowd twice in the third period with brilliant glove saves. Overtime saw the Reign lean on San Diego until the Gulls fell.
Game 3 offers no respite for either side, with both teams relocating to Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena on Sunday night at 7 p.m.
NOTES: For the first time all season, the Gulls lost when leading after forty minutes; San Diego was 31-0-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs when holding the second period lead…Ontario has killed all seven San Diego power plays on the series and are 16-for-16 on the PK in the Calder Cup playoffs; the Reign were the top penalty killing team in the regular season as well…Jacob Larsson, the 2015 first round draft pick of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, made his pro debut for San Diego, recording two shots and a -1 defensive rating…Harry Zolnierczyk returned to the Gulls lineup after missing thirteen games with a lower body injury, recording two shots…San Diego played without goalie Anton Khudobin (upper body) and center Mike Sgarbossa (lower body) for the second straight game.
1st Star: ONT Justin Auger (GWG); 2nd Star: ONT Kris Newbury (1-0=1, two SOG); 3rd Star: SD Matt Hackett (42 saves on 44 shots)