May 13, 2016
SAN DIEGO – For the second straight home game in the AHL’s Pacific Division Finals, the San Diego Gulls and Ontario Reign played into sudden death overtime and the Reign send the crowd home unhappy.
Mike Amadio’s rebound goal 6:29 into the extra period gave the Ontario Reign a 4-3 overtime victory over the San Diego Gulls in front of an intense crowd of 9,078 at Valley View Casino Center. The Reign, who won the Calder Cup in Manchester, New Hampshire last season, can close out the second round best-of-seven series with a home-ice victory in Game 5 on Saturday night.
“You’ve got to keep moving,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins, “I’m not going to lie: any time you lose a game in the playoffs, it’s hard to take. But whether you win or lose, you’ve got to move on quickly, and especially with a back-to-back.”
The Reign have unraveled some of the strongest threads of the Gulls’ season-long trend lines during the series. In both home games, San Diego has lost despite scoring the first goal and leading after forty minutes. The Gulls were a perfect 34-0-0 coming into the second round when leading after two periods, and 31-1-2 when scoring first, but in this series are 1-2 on both counts against the Reign.
San Diego thought they had broken out on top in the first period, when Brandon Montour slapped home a power play goal, but video review revealed that the puck entered the net from the side instead of the front, and the goal was disallowed.
In the second period, the Gulls had another power play chance and capitalized. Shea Theodore’s wrist shot from outside the circles found its way home through traffic for Theodore’s second goal of the playoffs and a 1-0 San Diego lead at 7:21 of the frame.
Behind 24 saves in the first two periods for Matt Hackett, the Gulls carried a 1-0 lead into the third period for the third consecutive game in the series. This time, an early San Diego power play opportunity came up empty, and the Reign tied the game on Nic Dowd’s shot into the upper corner over Hackett’s left shoulder at 3:47.
Chris Mueller would regain the lead for San Diego at 11:02, tipping home a Kyle MacKinnon deflection from the low slot. The second lead of the third period for the Gulls would last only 62 seconds, as Adrian Kempe of the Reign picked up the puck off a defensive zone draw and skated up the ice, firing the puck over Hackett’s right shoulder, this time for the game-tying goal at 12:04.
Kempe would speak again at the 13:56 mark, knocking home a rebound down low after the Gulls lost the puck in deep. Hackett’s poke check of Nic Dowd saw the puck find Kempe’s stick in between two defenders, and he lifted it home for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Just ten seconds later, the Gulls were back to level terms on a goal off the center ice draw. Chris Mueller won the puck back to Andy Welinski and then was lost behind the defense, picking up a stretch pass just outside the blue line. He drove in to the left circle, pulled up in the slot and skipped a shot through Peter Budaj (25 saves) in the five-hole for a 3-3 tie.
An injury to veteran Gulls defenseman Stu Bickel with 7:11 in the third period forced San Diego to play overtime with only five defensemen. The Reign kept up the pressure just as they did in Game 2, outshooting the Gulls 3-0 in the extra frame. Amadio’s right wing rebound of a Kevin Gravel shot ended the contest at 6:29 of overtime.
“We came out in overtime and it seemed like we couldn’t get out of our zone,” said Eakins. “The one thing we definitely have to tweak is we need to handle the puck better. We’re trying to make plays that aren’t there.”
The Gulls and Reign meet for Game 5 on Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. A Game 6, if necessary, would be played Monday night in San Diego.
NOTES: The Gulls were 1-for-4 on the power play, the Reign 0-for-1…the loss was the first for San Diego this playoffs when scoring on the man advantage (4-1)…Mueller extended his points streak to six consecutive playoff games…Nick Ritchie (four SOG) saw his seven-game points streak end…Nic Dowd had a goal, assist and a +3 rating for Ontario…Matt Hackett stopped 33-of-37 shots in the loss…the Reign out-shot the Gulls 37-28 and have out-shot the Gulls in all four games of the series…Ontario’s shot advantage for the playoffs is 290-179…the Reign are 5-0 this season coming off a shutout loss…the Dowd goal in the third period ended a 103:47 shutout streak in the series for Hackett.
1st Star: ONT Adrian Kempe (2-0=2, 3 SOG, +1 rating); 2nd Star: ONT Nic Dowd (1-1=2, 2 SOG, +3 rating); 3rd Star: SD Chris Mueller (2-1=3, 3 SOG)