December 26, 2015

SAN DIEGO – Chris Mueller broke a 1-1 tie with 4:37 remaining in the second period and the San Diego Gulls (15-10-0-1) never looked back, securing a 4-1 victory over the Ontario Reign in front of 11,078 fans at Valley View Casino Center. The Gulls beat the AHL Western Conference leaders for the fourth straight game in their twelve-game season series, and also picked up their fourth straight win overall.

Mueller and Joseph Cramarossa had a goal and assist on the game, while Anton Khudobin made 29 saves to win his third consecutive game in net for San Diego. Nic Kerdiles and Mike Sgarbossa also scored for the Gulls, who improved to 9-2-0-1 at home.

The resumption of play after the AHL holiday break brought a ragged first period in the early minutes, with both teams trying to regain their rhythm on the ice. When the Reign (16-5-2-1) saw Kris Newbury sent to the penalty box for a cross-check 3:54 into the period, the Gulls were able to put their top-ranked power play unit on the ice. Halfway into the man advantage, Kerdiles deflected home a Shea Theodore shot at 4:54 for his seventh goal of the year and sixth on the power play.

The first goal of the game was not insignificant:  San Diego improved to 12-0-0-1 when netting first; the Reign are 13-0-1-0 when they get the game’s first goal. The Gulls’ 27th power play goal of the season is the second-most in the AHL (Albany Devils, 29).

Ontario had an answer just after the period’s halfway point, with Justin Auger fooling Khudobin on a near-post sharp angle shot to tie the game 1-1 at 10:03.

The second period saw Ontario out-shoot the Gulls 13-6 and take the ice for a four-minute high-sticking minor, but they could not solve Khudobin or the San Diego defense. During a brief four-on-four skating situation, the Gulls’ Cramarossa took the action to the Reign with a high-speed entry into the zone on right wing. While goalie Peter Budaj was able to stop Cramarossa’s bid, Mueller was there to clean up the loose puck at the edge of the crease for a 2-1 San Diego lead at 15:23 in the second.

The Gulls built their advantage in the third behind Sgarbossa, who roofed a shot off the bottom of the crossbar behind Budaj and across the goal line at 6:49 for a 3-1 lead. Stefan Noesen and Nick Ritchie picked up assists on the goal; for Ritchie, his home scoring streak extended to nine consecutive games.

Ontario’s Kurtis MacDermid was sent off with a match penalty for a check to the head of San Diego center Matt Bailey with 11:56 remaining in the third period. While the Gulls failed to score on the ensuing five-minute major, the Reign were never able to regain their offensive thrust, eventually bowing despite a 30-21 shots advantage. Cramarossa’s empty-net goal concluded the scoring at 18:15.

The Gulls now board a bus for Bakersfield, taking on the Condors Sunday evening from Rabobank Arena.