February 5, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Shane O’Brien’s third period goal turned out to be the game winner as the San Diego Gulls skated past the Stockton Heat 4-2 on Friday night at Valley View Casino Center. A crowd of 7,236 saw the Gulls (20-18-1-1) snap their own five-game home losing streak, while ending the Heat’s five-game winning streak.
Bryan Moore, Matt Berry and Joseph Cramarossa all scored single goals for San Diego, who won for the first time in 2016 on home ice. The Gulls held Stockton (18-17-1-2) to no more than seven shots in any period, outshooting the Heat 21-18 in a tightly played game.
San Diego’s predilection for turning the game’s first goal into the night’s result continued on Friday, as a clean stretch pass from Andrew O’Brien connected to Moore, who leaked out in front of the defense and deked Heat goalie Joni Ortio right-to-left, cleanly finishing his first goal of the year at 5:13 of the first into a vacated net. The Gulls are now 15-0-0-1 when scoring the game’s first goal.
It took little time for San Diego to double their advantage, as Antoine Laganiere’s forecheck behind the Heat net gained puck possession. Laganiere swept the puck in front of Ortio, where Matt Berry’s one-timer beat the goalie clean to build a 2-0 advantage at 6:31.
Stockton battled back with a physical second period, netting the frame’s only goal on Derek Grant’s power play tally, a doubly deflected puck from the blue line in. Grant’s 22nd goal of the year was his 20th point in his last eleven games.
Leading 2-1 entering the third, the Gulls pushed back out to a two goal advantage when O’Brien’s rising shot from the blue line snuck past Ortio, beating him over his left shoulder into the upper side netting for a 3-1 advantage at 7:13.
Stockton answered on a clinical rush, with Freddie Hamilton’s backhand centering pass from the wall connecting to the blade of Hunter Elson’s stick, who jammed home a one-time deflection in front of Anton Khudobin to narrow the gap to 3-2 at 14:12.
The Heat pressured San Diego late, but the Gulls won 16 of 24 faceoffs in the third period, several in the defensive zone by Kyle McKinnon, to stunt the comeback attempt. After Stockton was called for icing in the final minute with an empty net, the resulting faceoff in the Heat zone forced Ortio back into his crease. The Gulls’ Kenny Ryan won a loose puck on the wall and fed Cramarossa, who circled into the slot before roofing a puck inside the crossbar for his eighth goal of the year at 19:30, sealing the San Diego victory.
The Gulls continue their four-game homestand with the second of back-to-back contests, welcoming the Milwaukee Admirals for a 7:05 faceoff tomorrow at Valley View Casino Center.
NOTES: The home team has won all five games so far in the Gulls-Heat season series, San Diego improving to 3-2 on the season…Moore, Berry and O’Brien all scored their first goals of the season to aid the Gulls’ cause…Anton Khudobin earned the win in net for San Diego, stopping 16-of-18 shots faced to improve to 5-5-1 on the season…Kyle Bonis, Shea Theodore, Chris Mueller and Nick Ritchie all added lone assists for the Gulls…the victory, combined with a Bakersfield loss, lifted San Diego into fourth position in the AHL Pacific Division, .023 out of third place and a playoff berth.
1st Star: SD Shane O’Brien (GWG, 1-0=1); 2nd Star: SD Matt Berry (1-0=1); 3rd Star: SD Bryan Moore (1-0=1)