April 14, 2017

ONTARIO, Calif. – Escondido native Austin Ortega scored the game-winning goal in the third round of the shootout to lead the San Diego Gulls (42-20-3-2, 89 pts.) to a 4-3 win over the Ontario Reign (36-20-10-1; 83 pts.) on Friday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski (17-8-1) made 32 saves and stopped Reign forward Teddy Purcell in the shootout to help the Gulls jump to second place in the Western Conference with one game remaining in the 2016-17 regular season.

The Gulls improved to 14-6-1-0 in the last 21 games and have wins in 24 of their last 33 contests (24-7-1-0) and 31 of the last 42 overall (31-9-1-1). San Diego has also earned standings points in 19 of the last 27 (18-8-1-0), as well as points in 35 of 44 contests since Dec. 26 (31-9-2-2). The club has also earned points in 14 of the past 20 road games (13-6-1-0) and 19 of the last 25 contests (17-6-1-1) away from home.

San Diego opened the scoring at 1:50 of the first period when Mitch Hults scored his first professional goal. Hults took a feed from Spencer Abbott and beat Ontario netminder Jeff Zatkoff (2-4-1) with a shot from between the circles.

Escondido native Austin Ortega pushed San Diego’s lead to 2-0 at 2:12 of the second period when he picked up a rebound behind the net, used his speed to cut to the slot and fired a wrist shot over Zatkoff’s shoulder for his third goal of the season. Ortega now has 3-1=4 points in five games since joining San Diego on Mar. 20.

The Reign cut the Gulls’ lead to 2-1 at 4:44 of the middle frame as Mike Amadio’s initial shot was stopped by Tokarski, but Keaton Thompson’s clearing attempt trickled into the San Diego’s net.

Ontario rode the momentum from Amadio’s goal and peppered Tokarski with several grade-A chances throughout the period, and the Reign finally tied the game at 16:37 as Purcell picked off a Gulls’ clearing attempt and slipped a snap shot by Tokarski.

At 2:24 of the third period, Ontario defenseman Cameron Schilling received a five-minute major penalty, in addition to a game misconduct, for spearing Deven Sideroff after the rookie Gulls forward received a two-minute minor for boarding the Reign blueliner. The Gulls generated a couple of good looks with three minutes of power-play time after Sideroff’s penalty ended but could not find the go-ahead goal.

The Gulls looked to be in trouble when Stu Bickel took a double-minor for cross-checking and roughing at 12:11 of the third period. That all changed when Zatkoff came out of his net and saw his clearing pass picked off by Zac Larazza who was recalled from Utah (ECHL) earlier in the day. Larazza fed Scott Sabourin who slid the puck into an empty-net to give San Diego a 3-2 lead.

The lead did not last long as Brett Sutter tied the game for Ontario 25 seconds later with his 18th goal of the season. Neither team found the back of the net in the final five minutes and the clubs headed to a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime for the third time this season.

Kevin Roy earned the best chance of the extra session with a breakaway opportunity, but was robbed by Zatkoff as the rivals went to a shootout.

In the shootout San Diego scored on all three of its attempts (Abbott, Roy, Ortega), while Tokarski’s stop on Ontario’s second shooter (Purcell) sealed the win.

San Diego returns home tomorrow night to close out the regular season against Ontario at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m.) All fans in attendance will receive a Gulliver bobblehead. A limited number of tickets are available by visiting AXS.com/Gulls or by phone at (619) 359-4730.

NOTES: Gulls forward Spencer Abbott tallied his 12th multi-point game of the season and has 2-6=8 points over his last five games…Brian Cooper also recorded an assist for San Diego…The Gulls improved to 19-4-3-2 in one-goal games and 13-6-1-1 in the first matchup of back-to-back contests…Ontario goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (2-4-1) stopped 12-of-15 shots in his fourth loss.

Three Stars:
1. Teddy Purcell (ONT)
2. Mike Amadio (ONT)
3. Stu Bickel (SD)