Oct. 25, 2017

Giovanni Fiore scored in the fourth round of the shootout, and Kevin Boyle made the game-ending save moments later as the San Diego Gulls secured a 4-3 shootout win over the Stockton Heat on Wednesday night at Valley View Casino Center. A crowd of 6,072 saw the Gulls (3-3-0, 6 points) surrender a 3-0 lead, only to emerge victorious in the first overtime contest of the year for either team.

“It was a close battle,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “Stockton kept coming. It was a good win to get. Our shooters in the shootout were excellent.”

Playing the Stockton Heat (4-2-0-1, 9 points) for the third consecutive game over six days, the Gulls brought physicality and intensity to a scoreless first period, highlighted by a spirited scrap between San Diego’s Sam Carrick and Stockton’s Ryan Lomberg. Trough 20 minutes the contest was scoreless and the shots even at 7-7.

Early in the second period, hard work by the Gulls’ Spencer Abbott resuscitated a San Diego offensive zone push with a low, cross-ice pass to Fiore, who netted his second goal of the season at 1:50 of the period. Fiore has now earned points in all five games played this season (2-3=5) to extended his point streak to five games and his club record for points in consecutive games to start a career.

“Working hard every day and getting better as usual. Not trying to focus on that, just trying to focus on the team having success,” said Fiore.

The Gulls netted two goals in 1:46 to extend their advantage, both off the stick of rookie center Mitch Hults. The center first tallied on the power play, finishing Austin Ortega’s left wall centering pass in front of the net at 12:27 for his second goal of the season.

Moments later, Hults took a lateral swipe at a puck in mid-air off a Steve Oleksy wrist shot, batting the puck past Stockton net-minder Jon Gillies on a scramble play for his second in a hurry, and a 3-0 Gulls lead at 14:13.

“I just tried to take a baseball swing on (the puck) and get any stick on it,” said Hults. “(Alex) Dostie worked his (tail) to win that puck for us.”

The Heat began their comeback behind forward Andrew Mangiapane, who sniped a wrist shot from left wing over Kevin Boyle’s glove-side shoulder and in off two posts for his fourth goal of the season at 16:06. Mangiapane (1-1=2 points) took over the AHL scoring lead with 4-8=12 points in seven games.

The second period’s final minute was eventful, highlighted by a heavyweight scrap between San Diego’s Mike Liambas and Stockton veteran winger Luke Gazdic.

The Heat would finish their comeback in the third period behind goals from Rasmus Andersson (9:56) and Garnet Hathaway (13:53). San Diego had three early power plays in the period but could not find the finishing blow, and the Heat built a 15-6 shot lead in the period.

Overtime saw Boyle make three of his best saves of the game, keeping San Diego in the contest after stopping 25-of-28 shots in regulation.

In the shootout, Abbott was turned aside to start the first round, while Mangiapane clinically finished his breakaway on a net-front deke. Kevin Roy (SD) and Spencer Foo (STK) both netted in the second round. Needing a goal to keep the shootout alive, head coach Dallas Eakins called upon rookie Julius Nattinen, who rewarded his bench boss with a clutch five-hole finish on Gillies to extend the game.

After Boyle stopped a bid by Stockton’s Marek Hrivik, Fiore gave San Diego the lead with a pin-point wrist shot from the circle. Andersson’s shot in tight went wide to end the shootout in four rounds, giving the Gulls a win in the first overtime contests for either side this season.

San Diego will travel to Texas for the first out-of-state matchup and a back-to-back against the Texas Stars (Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m. PT) and San Antonio Rampage (Oct. 28, 5 p.m. PT). The Gulls have won 13 consecutive road games outside of California dating back to Oct. 29, 2016 (5-4 loss @ Manitoba).

Three Stars:
1. Mitch Hults (SD)
2. Giovanni Fiore (SD)
3. Andrew Mangiapane (STK)