Dec. 22, 2017

Eric Fehr’s power play goal at 3:23 of sudden death overtime gave the San Diego Gulls (13-11-1-0) a 4-3 comeback win over the Ontario Reign on Friday night at Valley View Casino Center. The Gulls rallied with three unanswered goals in the third period and overtime to post their fourth straight win, and sixth in the last seven games (6-1-0-0).

Kevin Boyle (8-6-1) stopped 30-of-33 shots for his third consecutive win for the Gulls to improve to 5-0-0 his last five home appearances with a 2.08 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

“We talk all the time about never being out of the fight,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “When you’re able to come back like that, it really brings the group together.”

Steve Oleksy and Deven Sideroff netted third period goals at 4:14 and 6:35 respectively, allowing San Diego to rally from a 3-1 third period deficit against the Reign (13-11-1-1), who lost for the first time all season when leading after 20 and 40 minutes. Fehr’s second consecutive game-winning goal came in the extra session on a cross-ice pass that found the back of the net to beat Reign goaltender Jack Campbell (6-7-1) for the fouth straight comeback win for San Diego.

“You can see there’s a little bit of swagger coming into the room,” said Fehr, who has scored seven goals in 12 games with San Diego. “The guys are starting to play a little bit better. We think we have the best four lines in the league and can roll them over and do a lot of damage.”

The Gulls got on the board first courtesy of hard work from their top line. Triggered into the offensive zone by a Kalle Kossila lead pass, Corey Tropp went from left to right between the circles but saw his shot opportunity blocked, only to retrieve the puck and feed Nic Kerdiles on a behind the back drop pass. Kerdiles’ left wing blast beat Jack Campbell for a 1-0 lead at 9:38 of the first period 9:44.

Despite the subsequent seesaw nature of the contest, the Gulls’ win improved their record to 7-0-1 when scoring the game’s first goal.

The Reign would answer in quick order, scoring on a power play just 1:08 after the Kerdiles goal. With James Melindy in the penalty box for an interference minor, Ontario’s Michael Mersch found room in front of the net to tip Alex Lintuniemi’s blue line wrist shot past Boyle and into the net at 10:46 of the first period. Mersch’s tally was his team-leading 10th goal and 20th point.

The Reign took the lead two seconds after their next power play opportunity. An elbowing penalty against the Gulls’ Sam Carrick turned into extended possession for Ontario in the San Diego zone. As Carrick was released out of the box and tried to skate back into the play, he could only watch as Paul LaDue’s drifting wrister from inside the blue line on right wing picked out the side netting behind Boyle on blocker side at 13:44 for his fifth goal of the season, and a 2-1 Ontario advantage.

Boyle held the line during a second period which saw the Reign out-shoot the Gulls 16-8. San Diego killed three minors during the frame while failing to connect on one power play chance of their own.

The third started inauspiciously for the home team, as Reign captain Brett Sutter saw his left wing slapper beat Boyle on blocker side just thirteen seconds into the period for a 3-1 Ontario lead. Sutter’s sixth goal of the season re-established a two goal lead on assists from Andrew Crescenzi and Alex Lintuniemi.

The newest San Diego Gulls forward would trigger the comeback four minutes later, as Joe Blandisi, assigned by the NHL Anaheim Ducks to the AHL on Thursday, would touch a right-wing pass outside the circle to veteran defenseman Steve Oleksy. With two Ontario defensemen focusing on Blandisi, Oleksy skated down low before roofing a shot over Campbell top shelf at 4:14 for his fifth goal of the season, narrowing the lead to 3-2.

“It means a lot,” said Oleksy of the Gulls’ third comeback win of the year when trailing after two periods. “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this season, and each and every one of these wins (on the streak) is a character win we can build upon.”

Two minutes later, Gulls rookies teamed up to brew an equalizer. Alex Dostie crashed the right corner to retrieve a Brian Cooper pass. His centering bid came through the slot to Sideroff, whose one-timer eluded Campbell’s glove and hit the net at 6:35 to knot the game at 3-3.

San Diego began overtime on their back skate as Corey Tropp was whistled for a tripping minor just twelve seconds into the sudden death 3-on-3. The Gulls killed the resulting power play, and drew a minor of their own on Nic Kerdiles’ spirited rush through the Reign zone, forcing an interference call from LaDue. Petterson’s hold-in gave Kossila the puck to set up Fehr’s game-winning score.

The Gulls and Reign conclude a back-to-back matchup tomorrow afternoon at Citizens Business Bank Arena (3 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM).

Three Stars:
1. Eric Fehr (SD)
2. Steve Oleksy (SD)
3. Mike Amadio (SD)