May 2, 2017

The San Diego Gulls defeated the Ontario Reign 4-1 in a winner-take-all Game 5 to clinch the Pacific Division Semifinals series, 3-2, in front of 5,634 fans at Valley View Casino Center on Tuesday night. Nic Kerdiles’ three-point first period and Jhonas Enroth’s 37 saves propelled the Gulls to a series win over the rival Reign. San Diego advances to the Pacific Division Finals to face the San Jose Barracuda in a best-of-seven series beginning on Friday, May 5 at SAP Center (7 p.m.).

The Gulls and the Anaheim Ducks, San Diego’s primary affiliate in the National Hockey League (NHL), are one of three AHL and NHL affiliations to advance to the second round of their respective playoffs. Joining the Gulls and Ducks are the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and St. Louis Blues (NHL), and the Hershey Bears (AHL) and Washington Capitals (NHL).

The Gulls opened the scoring on the power play at 9:03 of the opening frame on a double-deflection goal credited to Nic Kerdiles. Andy Welinski’s point shot deflected off Ontario defenseman Vincent LoVerde and then off Kerdiles and past Reign goaltender Jack Flinn to give San Diego a 1-0 lead.

Less than a minute later Max Gortz found Keaton Thompson above the left circle and the rookie defenseman blasted home his second-career playoff goal to double San Diego’s advantage to 2-0. Thompson has goals in consecutive games after being held scoreless in the first three games of the series.

San Diego kept up the pressure and tallied again when Kevin Roy deflected Kerdiles’ shot past Flinn to extend the home club’s advantage to 3-0. The assist on the play gave Kerdiles 1-2=3 points in the first period, the most points scored by a Gulls player in a single playoff period. Flinn was pulled after surrendering three goals on 11 shots, replaced by goaltender Jack Campbell after making eight saves in 11:40. In an odd twist, Campbell did not take the ice during warmups, but expected starter Jeff Zatkoff left the pregame warmups due to an injury which forced Campbell to backup Flinn.

A historic first period came to an end with the Gulls leading 3-0 and numerous franchise records broken. San Diego’s three goals in the period tied a Gulls playoff record for goals in a period set on two previous occasions, and also set a record for goals in a first period in the postseason. The last time San Diego scored three goals in a period of a playoff game was on Apr. 29, 2016 in the second period of Game 4 vs Texas in the Pacific Division Semifinals.

The three goals in the first 11:40 of the first period set a Gulls postseason record for the three earliest goals scored in a playoff game. The previous mark of 21:17 was also set on Apr. 29, 2016 vs. Texas in the Pacific Division Semifinals.

Ontario spent a majority of the second frame in San Diego’s end and outshot the Gulls by a 16-6 margin. Enroth (3-2) was the story of the period, stopping all 16 shots, including a few spectacular saves on the Reign’s two power-play opportunities. His most impressive stop came late in the frame on Sean Backman’s one-timer from the right circle that he kicked out with the left pad. The Gulls carried a 3-0 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes of play.

The Reign got on the board 8:12 into the third period on Brett Sutter’s first goal of the playoffs. Sutter corralled the ricochet of Teddy Purcell’s blocked shot and rifled a slap shot past Enroth to pull Ontario within two goals.

Jordan Samuels-Thomas pushed San Diego’s advantage to 4-1 at 14:20 of the final period as he took a cross-ice pass from Sam Carrick and lifted the puck over the sprawled Campbell. The Gulls played solid defense in the final five minutes to clinch the series.

The Gulls travel to San Jose for the first two games of the Pacific Division Final on Fri. May 5 and Sat. May 6, both contests are at 7 p.m. San Diego returns home for Game 3 of the series on Wednesday, May 10 at Valley View Casino Center (7 p.m.). A limited number of tickets are available by visiting or by phone at (619) 359-4730.

NOTES: San Diego improved to 2-1 in its three playoff series in club history and 1-1 all-time in Game 5…Nic Kerdiles led the series with 3-3=6 points…Brian Cooper (0-1=1) recorded his first-career playoff point with an assist on Kevin Roy’s first period goal…Sam Carrick and Jaycob Megna each tallied assist for the Gulls…San Diego went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage and has notched a power-play goal in each of its last four contests (4-of-13, 30.8%)…the Gulls rank second in power-play percentage (4-of-15, 26.7%) among AHL playoff teams …Jack Campbell made 14 saves in 44:41 after Jack Flinn was pulled.

Three Stars:
1. Jhonas Enroth (SD)
2. Nic Kerdiles (SD)
3. Keaton Thompson (SD)