March 19, 2016
ONTARIO, Calif. – Corey Tropp scored 1:25 into the game for a lead the San Diego Gulls would never relinquish, as the Gulls (33-21-2-2) controlled a 4-1 victory over the Ontario Reign from start to finish on Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. San Diego improved to 7-3-0 against the Reign on the season and 4-2-0 in Ontario.
Ondrej Kase, Antoine Laganiere and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Gulls, who extended their road streaks to three straight wins, points in seven straight (6-0-1) and nine of ten (8-1-0-1). San Diego has handed the AHL’s Western Conference-leading Reign seven of their twenty regulation and overtime losses this season.
Bouncing back from a 7-5 loss on home ice to Bakersfield the night before, the Gulls quickly quieted a crowd of 9,169 when Tropp received a pass with speed from Matt Bailey on the right circle of the Ontario zone. Corey’s first shot was saved by Ontario AHL All-Star goalie Peter Budaj, but Tropp followed his own rebound into the crease and poked it across the goal line for a 1-0 San Diego lead, 85 seconds into the action.
The Gulls would strike again out of the locker room to start the second stanza. Ondrej Kase picked off an exit pass just outside the Reign blue line and turned to attack on right wing. With Harry Zolnierczyk drawing attention by skating down the middle, Kase drew space to wrist a shot past over Budaj’s glove and into the net for his sixth goal of the season, this one at 1:33 of the second.
San Diego goalie Anton Khudobin displayed a quick glove while saving fifteen shots over the first two periods. Kenny Ryan’s driving back-check across the goal mouth in the final two minutes of the second period denied Ontario a chance to pull a goal back when Khudobin lost control of the puck behind his net.
In the third, the Gulls scored in 4-on-4 action at 9:37 on a perfectly timed rush by Tropp, who held at the blue line on the right edge to let Laganiere carry the puck in onside, then matched Laganiere’s speed to execute a give-and-go. Sprung free in the slot walking in, Laganiere beat Budaj for his eleventh goal of the season and a 3-0 San Diego advantage.
The Reign got back in the game three minutes later, with Derek Forbert being handed the puck on a silver platter at the right edge of Khudobin’s crease by Adrian Kempe, who burst in on right wing then deftly backhanded the puck into danger for the goal at 12:21.
Shortly thereafter, Ontario had a thirty-second power play that turned into an all-out scrum in front of the Gulls’ net. Nic Kerdiles blocked shots on right and left wing to deny the Reign’s bid for two quick goals in succession. Noesen’s empty net goal with 17 seconds remaining concluded the scoring.
Combined with a Texas Stars overtime loss at home to Grand Rapids, the Gulls moved .005 ahead of Texas for second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division. San Diego gets a week off before facing San Jose for consecutive contests on Saturday and Sunday at SAP Center.
NOTES: First Goal has picked the winner in all ten Gulls-Reign games, and it’s easy to understand why: with the win, the Gulls are now 26-0-1-1 when scoring first; the Reign are 27-0-1 when they net first goal…Matt Bailey’s first period assist gave him four assists over the weekend…Shea Theodore had an assist and +3 rating on the night for San Diego…the Gulls are 27-0-0 when leading after two periods…San Diego has scored 54 goals over the past 13 games (4.15 goals per game).
1st Star: SD Corey Tropp (1-1=2 points, +2 rating); 2nd Star: SD Anton Khudobin (22 saves on 23 shots faced); 3rd Star: ONT Derek Forbort (1-0=1 point)