Nov. 4, 2017

ONTARIO, Calif. – Reto Berra made 38 saves and stopped two shootout attempts in his San Diego debut to give the Gulls a hard-fought, 4-3 shootout win over the Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The Gulls (5-4-1-0, 11 pts.) concluded a home-and-home matchup with their Southern California rivals while avenging a 1-0 shutout loss last night, and improved to 9-3-0-1 all-time at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

While the night included two firsts for the Gulls, the first goal in a San Diego uniform for defenseman Jeff Schultz and a three assist night for winger Kevin Roy, the night belonged to the Swiss netminder who had debut to remember. Assigned to San Diego from the Anaheim Ducks just hours before the game, Berra quickly endeared himself to his new teammates with 19 saves in the opening frame with rebound opportunities for Ontario few and far between. Despite being outshot 19-7 in the period, San Diego jumped out to a 2-0 lead late.

“It’s a perfect example of taking the chances you’re given,” said Gulls assistant coach Brett Ferguson. “We probably only had the two chances in the first period and we capitalized. Both nights, tonight and last night, we had good goaltending. It rolled into tonight and it gives your team confidence.”

A Kevin Roy’s shot was knocked home by Jeff Schultz as he crashed the net, and the veteran defenseman recorded his first goal as a member of the Gulls. He tallied his first goal since Game 1 of the Pacific Division Finals on May 5, 2016, ironically while he was a member of the Reign playing against the Gulls. The goal broke a combined 81-game goal drought for Schultz to put San Diego on top at 17:33 of the first period despite the disparity in shots. Schultz’s last regular-season goal came on Mar. 25, 2016 with Ontario vs. Stockton.

Sixty-eight seconds later, Andy Welinski’s point shot from the blue line beat Reign goaltender Jack Campbell (2-3-0-1) on the power play to double San Diego’s lead at 18:41. After seeing their franchise record eight games with a power play goal streak snapped by Ontario a night ago, the Gulls started a new one in style with the first of two markers with the man advantage.

Reign captain Brett Sutter would finally beat Berra when his shot from the slot found the top of the net following a long shift in the Gulls’ zone at 9:42 of the second period. Paul LaDue connected on a slapshot with just 58 seconds left in the period to equalize at 2-2 with his own power play marker.

Despite giving up the power play goal to LaDue, San Diego tied a season high by killing seven penalties (7-of-8 on the night), as the Gulls have killed 29 of the last 32 opposition power plays the past six games (90.6%).

In the first period defenseman Brian Cooper left the game after a Sam Herr hit, as the Gulls played with five defenseman for more than 40 minutes. After a second fighting major from Mike Liambas, who received a an automatic game misconduct for his second altercation, the Gulls also had to play a forward short for half the contest.

“It’s the card that you’re dealt sometimes (with injuries),” added Ferguson. “We had guys that are thrust into situations that normally aren’t in them. Especially on the back end there with some young defenseman having to play a lot more minutes than they’re used to.”

“It’s a good growing experience for everybody, a learning experience, and we look to continue that this week. Guys are going to have to step up. Guys are playing out of position, guys are playing in situations that they aren’t used to. They responded well.”

Ontario got off to a quick start to open the third period when an errant Giovanni Fiore pass deflected right to Reign forward Michael Mersch who slipped a shot through Berra at 6:19 of the final period to give Ontario their first lead of the game.

Deven Sideroff reversed the momentum with his second of the season on the power play. He took a terrific feed from Austin Ortega who was behind the goal line, and as he sped down the middle he beat Campbell to knot the score at 3-3 with 9:08 remaining.

Kevin Roy picked up an assist on each of San Diego’s goals to mark his first career three assist game (0-3=3) to tie his career high for points in a single game. Tonight marked the third time this season Roy has tallied three points in a game, with the last coming one week ago when he scored a goal and added two assists at San Antonio.

Despite a double-minor for high sticking against Mersch, San Diego couldn’t capitalize during the overtime session with the penalty that carried over from the end of regulation. With a backk-and-forth 3-on-3 once things evened up, Berra made four stops in overtime, including a dazzling save on a 2-on-1 for Ontario. The shootout saw the Gulls connect on both shots taken, with Roy netting the first and Spencer Abbott converting his attempt to seal the win. Berra turned aside both Reign shots, with the first stop on Jonny Brodzinski turning heads as the forward had a gaping four-by-six and somehow Berra got a toe on the puck to keep it out.

With the 4-3 win, San Diego improved to 3-1-1 in it’s last five games as the club returns home to begin a season-long five-game homestand against the Texas Stars on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m. PT).

Three Stars:
1. S. Abbott (SD)
2. M. Mersch (ONT)
3. K. Roy (SD)