Dec. 1, 2017
ONTARIO, Calif. – Giovanni Fiore scored the game-winning goal with 2.8 seconds remaining to give San Diego its third come-from behind victory of the season en route to a 3-2 win over the Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Fiore’s second goal of the game was the latest regulation game-winning goal in Gulls history.
The Gulls (8-10-1-0, 17 pts.) stunned Ontario (8-7-0-1) to snap their three-game losing streak, but the wind idn’t come without serious drama as Ontario’s Kevin Gravel tied the game at 2-2 with 25 seconds remaining in regulation. With the win, San Diego improved to 10-3-0-1 all-time at Ontario, and 16-10-1-1 overall vs. the Reign.
“You play to the final horn, and it’s kind of a cliché but tonight proves why,” said Gulls assistant coach Brett Ferguson. “It just shows the desperation that our team is feeling right now, where we are in the standings. We knew that we had to come out and we had to play desperate, and we did all game right until the final horn.”
“It’s something that we really hope can help us get on a run. We are going on the road here for a little bit. It’s a big road win tonight in a tough building that we have had some success so far this year. Hopefully we can build on it.”
A scoreless first period belonged to the goaltenders as the Gulls recorded the first six shots of the game against Reign netminder Cal Petersen (4-4-0) but the Reign responded with a push of their own late, forcing Gulls goaltender Reto Berra (2-2-0) to make some eight of his 35 saves on the night.
Stepan Falkovsky opened the scoring at the 3:09 mark of the second period when his shot from just inside the blue line deflected off of Berra’s glove and trickled into the net to put Ontario on top 1-0.
Scott Sabourin would get the goal right back for San Diego at 5:18 when stole the puck in the offensive zone and went backhand to forehand before ripping his first goal of the season over the shoulder of Petersen.
Ontario grabbed the upper-hand in play for long portions of the period, but the Swiss netminder kept the Gulls in it with 17 saves during the middle frame on the same sheet of ice on which he made his Gulls debut nearly a month ago. Both of Berra’s wins this season have come against the Reign where he has made 73 saves in the two contests.
An early third period power play would be fortuitous for San Diego as the AHL’s No. 1 power play unit went to work when Giovanni Fiore took a Spencer Abbott feed and rifled a shot from the slot past Petersen for his fifth goal of the year. The rookie left wings goal gave the Gulls their first lead of the night at the 1:26 mark of the final period. Abbott picked up his team-leading 18th point while defenseman Andy Welinski notched his 13th power play point, which ranks second among AHL defensemen.
The third-period drama was just beginning in Ontario, as a late penalty to Sam Carrick set up Kevin Gravel’s power play goal with just 25 seconds remaining to put a damper on what looked like the Gulls would snap their recent three-game skid. The Gulls immediately controlled the ensuing faceoff and bounced right back, exerting pressure in the Reign zone and forcing Ontario defenders to scramble.
Abbott connected a cross-ice pass to Fiore for the second time in the period and Fiore slipped the puck past a beaten Petersen to take the two points in regulation and net the latest winner in Gulls history.
“It turned out for the best tonight, but it was a close one,” said Fiore. “It was good battle by (Sam) Carrick on the wall and I think it was [Jaycob Megna] that rimmed it down low and Sam was the first one it once again. He was able to find Spencer alone in front of the net and there I was. Spencer made a good play and I found the back of the net.”
“That was a huge one, we needed that one. Now we have to start off on a good foot on our next road trip.”
San Diego continues its season-long five-game road trip at Milwaukee on Tuesday, Dec. 5 (5 p.m. PT), Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 6 (5 p.m. PT) and Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 9 (5 p.m. PT, Mighty 1090-AM).
1. G. Fiore (SD)
2. S. Sabourin (SD)
3. S. Falkovsky (ONT)