Nic Kerdiles scored the game-winning goal with 1:33 left in regulation to give the San Diego Gulls a 3-1 Game 3 victory over the Ontario Reign and a 2-1 series lead in front of 10,391 fans at Valley View Casino Center on Friday night. Nick Sorensen (0-2=2) recorded his second consecutive multi-point effort and Gulls goaltender Jhonas Enroth (2-1) made 38 saves as the series now shifts back to Ontario for Game 4 on Monday, May 1 at Citizens Business Bank Arena (7 p.m.).
“I think Kase made a hell of a play, dropping it back for Kerdiles and I don’t think the goalie saw it,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “Just a quick bang-bang play. We had a bunch of those in the second period and weren’t able to convert, so it was nice to get that one.”
San Diego opened the scoring six minutes into the game on the power play with Kalle Kossila’s third-career playoff goal. The 24-year-old buried a centering pass from Andy Welinski that was tipped by the blade of Sorensen in the slot and right on to Kossila’s tape as he slammed it into the net.
Ontario earned a power play of its own at 8:09 of the first period and cashed in on Mike Amadio’s second goal of the series. Amadio took a feed from Sean Backman and sniped a wrist shot past the glove of Enroth to tie the game 1-1.
The remaining 10 minutes of a chippy opening frame concluded with multiple post-whistle scrums, but no more goals as the Southern California rivals took a 1-1 tie into the first intermission.
“I think there’s a whole lot of ice packs going in both dressing rooms right now,” said Eakins on the physicality. “It just kept going back and forth, highly physical, and I’m sure there are a lot of guys hurting on both teams right now.”
A scoreless second period saw Ontario outshoot the Gulls by a 17-8 margin. Enroth was solid throughout the frame and made several big stops on the Reign’s late power play opportunity. The Gulls looked to take the lead when they earned a five-on-three man-advantage for 1:41 early in the final frame when the Reign ran into penalty trouble. Kerdiles was robbed on a point-blank chance and Campbell made a few other key saves to keep the game tied as the Gulls couldn’t take advantage on the power play.
Ontario controlled the rest of the period with a 13-6 shot advantage and the clubs looked to be headed to overtime. All of that went out the window when Kerdiles stepped into a drop pass from Ondrej Kase in the slot and roofed a wrist shot by Campbell.
“Kase made a great play and left that puck there for me to shoot it,” said Kerdiles. “Luckily I found the back of the net. I knew where I was shooting that puck right when it hit my stick and I tried to put everything on it.”
Antoine Laganiere added an empty-net goal at 19:33 to seal the win for San Diego as the Gulls improved to 4-3 all-time in the playoffs at Valley View Casino Center.
“We feel good about ourselves and have the momentum going into Game 4,” said Enroth. “I think we’re going to come out flying once we hit the ice in Ontario.”
The series shifts back to Ontario for Game 4 on Monday, May 1 at Citizens Business Bank Arena (7 p.m.).
NOTES: San Diego improved to 3-0 all-time in Game 3… Ondrej Kase (0-1=1), Jaycob Megna (0-1=1) and Jeff Schultz (0-1=1) all picked up their first points of the series…The Gulls are 9-10 (90%) on the penalty-kill through the first three games of the series…Ontario netminder Jack Campbell (1-2) stopped 22-of-24 shots in the loss.
1. Nic Kerdiles (SD)
2. Sam Carrick (SD)
3. Kalle Kossila (SD)