December 5, 2015

STOCKTON, Calif. — Derek Grant’s power play goal with 4:47 remaining in the third period broke a 2-2 tie, lifting the host Stockton Heat (7-8-0-2) to an eventual 4-2 victory in front of 5,076 at Stockton Arena. Grant later added an empty-netter for his second goal of the game and seventh of the season to complete the scoring.

Kyle Bonis and Andrew O’Brien found the back of the net for the San Diego Gulls (11-9-0-1), who dropped both games of a weekend Central California road trip. Ryan Faragher was tested early and often in net for the Gulls, making a season-high 40 saves in the defeat.

Special teams turned out to be key on a Saturday night in Stockton, but not in the direction the pregame statistical trends would have suggested. Entering the game ranked second in the American Hockey League in power play efficiency, the Gulls failed on five power play attempts against the Heat. Stockton, the 17th ranked power play unit in the AHL, converted twice on the man advantage in seven opportunities.

It was on a four-minute power play, after an Andrew O’Brien high sticking penalty, where the Heat opened the scoring. After killing the first 3:30 of the penalty, the Gulls saw center Turner Elson checked into the boards, only to recover the puck from his seat and slide it to a wide open Kenny Agostino in front of the net; his quick shot beat Faragher for a 1-0 lead 6:33 into the contest. San Diego has lost seven straight games when conceding the first goal.

The Gulls tied the score early in the second period when extended forecheck pressure paid off, as Max Friberg fed Bonis in the slot for his second goal of the season, 2:53 into the period for a 1-1 tie.

Stockton regained the lead late in the period, as Freddie Hamilton knocked in the second rebound on a flurry in front of Faragher, started when Agostino received an entry pass with space on left wing. The 2-1 lead at 17:30 could hardly be celebrated by the hosts before the Gulls had found an answer: Andrew O’Brien recording his first goal of the season on a low slap shot from just inside the blue line on left wing, surprising Heat net-minder Joni Ortio (23 saves) just fifteen seconds later to tie the game at two.

After a tense and combative start to the third period, the game turned on a goaltender interference penalty, assessed to the Gulls’ Brian McGrattan at 14:52. It took little time for the Heat to convert, as an unfortunate bounce off the leg of a Gulls defenseman hopped right to the stick of Grant in the slot, who beat Faragher for his first of two late goals and the eventual game-winner at 15:13 of the frame. A pair of late scraps piled on the penalty minutes as the two teams combined for 67 PIM.

The Gulls dropped to 2-2 on the season series against the Heat, with both teams winning twice on home ice. San Diego continues their five-game road schedule next weekend with games Friday in Bakersfield and Saturday in San Jose.