May 8, 2016
ONTARIO, Calif. – Matt Hackett stopped all 29 shots he faced for his second career AHL postseason shutout, as the San Diego Gulls beat the Ontario Reign 3-0 on Sunday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The Reign lead the best-of-seven Pacific Division Finals two games to one, with Game 4 coming up on Friday night in San Diego.
Kalle Kossila, Nick Ritchie (power play) and Jaycob Megna (empty net) scored the goals for San Diego (4-3 in the postseason), as the Gulls rebounded one night after an overtime loss on home ice to claw their way back into the series.
“Our guys were calm and cool on the bench,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “Like all season, we’ve been a resilient group. The group is strong, and they weren’t rattled by being down two-nothing [in the series].”
The story, for the second straight night, was the brilliance of Hackett in net. After stopping 42 shots on Saturday night only to fall in overtime defeat, the Gulls’ goalie was perfect on 29 shots Sunday. Over the weekend, Hackett saved 71 of 73 shots faced, a .973 save percentage.
“We needed that game, and the boys did a great job competing and battling,” said Hackett. “In the playoffs, if you’re all competing and pulling the same rope, you’re going to have results.”
“The guys played great, and the shutout was a bonus.”
The Gulls’ first goal came from a rookie on an amateur tryout (ATO) from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Kalle Kossila. An offensive zone far corner cycle between Kossila, Ondrej Kase and Antoine Laganiere developed into a scoring chance as Laganiere curled the right circle. His pass through the slot connected to Kossila’s forehand as the rookie drifted backward to create space, beating a leaping Peter Budaj over his blocker arm for a 1-0 Gulls lead at 18:27 of the first.
A tense second period saw no scoring, with the Reign outshooting the Gulls 13-10. A late period penalty on San Diego’s Chris Wagner for high sticking allowed Ontario to start the third with a power play. It was an eerie callback to the night prior, when Wagner was in the box to start the third and Kris Newbury scored a power play goal to tie the game. This time, San Diego’s penalty kill was up to the task and the game remained 1-0 Gulls.
Later in the frame, Ontario defenseman Jeff Schultz was whistled for crosschecking, and the Gulls gained their fourth power play of the night. As the advantage was about to elapse, a right wing slap shot by Brandon Montour hit the pads of Budaj and found the stick of Nick Ritchie, who was net front to slide home his fifth playoff goal and build out the 2-0 lead at 8:18.
The Reign pulled Budaj for an extra attacker with 3:39 to play, but the strategy backfired when Jaycob Megna flipped a puck from well inside his blue line all the way down the ice and into the vacated net for his first goal of the season, and a game sealer at 16:49.
In an alternating games format, the series now returns to San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center, where Game 4 will be waged on Friday, May 13 at 7:05 p.m.
NOTES: The power play score for the Gulls snapped a streak of nineteen consecutive penalty kills by Ontario to start the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs…Ritchie’s goal tied him with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Daniel Sprong for the league lead in playoff goals (5)…Ondrej Kase, Chris Mueller, Montour and Laganiere all earned solo assists…Hackett’s last shutout came in 2011, when he helped backstop the Houston Aeros to the Calder Cup Finals…San Diego played without starting goalie Anton Khudobin (upper body) and top-line center Mike Sgarbossa (lower body) for the third straight game, while forward Corey Tropp (illness) missed his first game of the playoffs.
1st Star: SD Matt Hackett (shutout, 29 saves); 2nd Star: SD Nick Ritchie (1-0=1, 2 SOG); 3rd Star: SD Kalle Kossila (1-0=1, 2 SOG, +1 rating)