April 15, 2016
SAN DIEGO – Kris Newbury’s goal at 12:14 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie, and the Ontario Reign quickly tacked on short handed and power play goals, extending out to an eventual 4-2 win over the San Diego Gulls at Valley View Casino Center. A crowd of 11,264 saw the Reign (44-18-4-1) clinch the top spot in the Western Conference for the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Gulls (38-23-4-2) lost despite scoring the game’s first goal, a rebound score by Matt Bailey with 23 seconds remaining in the first period. San Diego lost in regulation for the first time all year when scoring first (28-1-2-1).
The Reign, who out-shot San Diego 42-34 on the night, controlled the second period and found an equalizer on a tip in front of Gulls netminder Anton Khudobin by forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas at 4:29 of the frame. The game was tied 1-1 after forty minutes.
After back-and-forth tense action for the opening eleven minutes of the third period, an extended possession by the veteran Reign turned into the go-ahead goal. Kris Newbury pounced on a puck left in the mid-slot and snapped in his tenth goal of the season at 12:14 for a 2-1 Ontario lead.
The Gulls had an opportunity to tie things up on the power play after Jeff Schultz was called for delay of game, but instead the tables turned on a giveaway in the San Diego zone on the man advantage. Nic Dowd pounced and finished with a weaving move in front of the net at 16:10 to give the Reign a 3-1 advantage.
Seconds later, a power play for Ontario was quickly cashed in when Jeff Schultz threaded a pass through to power forward Michael Mersch, who scored his 24th goal of the season. The score was answered seven seconds later by Michael Sgarbossa of the Gulls, who won the center ice draw, picked up a return pass from Brandon Montour and skated in down the middle, finishing high over Peter Budaj (32 saves on 34 shots) for his 17th goal of the year.
A late power play opportunity came up empty for the Gulls, who struck out in six chances against the Reign’s top ranked penalty kill. The two teams will face one another again on Saturday night to conclude the AHL regular season.
NOTES: The Gulls played for the third straight game with four amateur tryout (ATO) players in their lineup…San Diego had already clinched second place in the Pacific and fourth place in the Western Conference prior to the game…veterans Chris Mueller, Antoine Laganiere, Jaycob Megna and Corey Tropp were voluntary scratches by San Diego as the Gulls rested legs for the upcoming playoffs…Anton Khudobin made 38 saves in the defeat for San Diego…Montour’s assist moved him into a tie with the inactive Mueller for the team lead with 56 points.
1st Star: ONT Kris Newbury (1-0=1, go-ahead goal); 2nd Star: ONT Peter Budaj (32 saves); 3rd Star: SD Nick Ritchie (0-1=1, 4 shots, +1 rating)