March 11, 2016

SAN DIEGO – Chris Wagner’s second goal of the night was an overtime game winner, as the San Diego Gulls (30-20-2-2) beat the Bakersfield Condors in sudden death for the second straight game, pulling out a 6-5 decision in front of 11,168 at Valley View Casino Center.

In a game filled with wide-open offense and back-and-forth action, the Gulls had the last laugh when Wagner’s right wing shot at 3:20 of the overtime frame deflected through Bakersfield goalie Niklas Lundstrom and into the net. San Diego’s only lead of the night came on the game’s final goal.

The Condors (25-22-5-2), who fell to 0-5 in sudden death overtime this season, built leads of 1-0, 4-2 and 5-4 during the first two periods, only to see the Gulls rally each time to tie the score. Harry Zolnierczyk’s shot from the mid-slot at 17:13 of the second period found home netting for his fifth goal of the year and the Gulls’ third equalizer of the night.

Mike Sgarbossa had three assists and Chris Mueller extended his goals streak to three straight games with a power play score early in the second period. Mueller has five goals in the past three games and seven over a six-game scoring surge (7-6=13 points).

Thanks to a Texas Stars loss in Stockton, the Gulls moved within ten percentage points of second place in the AHL Pacific Division, while pushing seven points ahead of the Condors in the standings.

Bakersfield scored first on Anton Slepyshev’s goal just 3:05 into the first period but the Gulls quickly answered when Sgarbossa passed a loose puck forward to Gulls winger Ondrej Kase, who forced his shot past a juggling Lundstrom and into the net to tie the score at 1-1, 5:29 into the frame.

Quick rejoinders were the theme of the first period, as the Condors scored 36 seconds after the Kase goal, with Marc-Olivier Roy beating Gulls goalie Anton Khudobin (30 saves) from the circle for his sixth goal of the year and a 2-1 Bakersfield lead at 6:05.

The Condors turned a 3-on-2 rush into a 3-1 lead on Ryan Hamilton’s 17th goal of the year, fired home from the high slot at 12:43 of the first. This time, it was San Diego with a quick answer, as a highly active Shea Theodore initiated an offensive zone rush and then capitalized with his eighth goal of the year, assisted by Nic Kerdiles and Stefan Noesen.

The Gulls’ 3-2 deficit was once again short lived, as Jujhar Khaira slotted his tenth goal of the year, on assists from Brad Hunt (0-2=2 points, +2 rating) and Tyler Pitlick (1-1=2 points, +2 rating) 43 seconds after the Theodore goal to push the lead back to 4-2 Condors at 14:26.

And yet, the first period was not complete. Chris Wagner’s first of two showstoppers was a puck he chased down heading at speed toward the right circle of the offensive zone. Wagner accelerated to lean into a blistering one-time slap shot, beating Lundstrom to bring the crowd to their feet at 17:33. The Condors led 4-3 at the end of a wild and wooly first period.

The second frame began with a Gulls power play after a holding call on David Musil of Bakersfield at the end of the first period. Chris Mueller was left alone on the goalmouth to pound home his team-leading 17th goal of the season and tie things up for the second time on the night, this time at 4-4.

San Diego then scrambled their way through three consecutive penalty kills, including 1:22 of two-man advantage for Bakersfield. The see-saw would later lean back to the visitors on Tyler Pitlick’s snap shot off a Khaira clean draw from the left circle of the Gulls zone, giving Bakersfield at 5-4 lead at 11:34.

Zolnierczyk’s heroics, coming on a pass from Sgarbossa and a toe drag into the slot, tied the game at 17:13, 5-5, and despite more frenetic action and twelve shots on goal in the third period, there would be no further scoring until overtime. The 3-on-3 saw the Condors hit the post and Khudobin deliver a pair of game-saving stops in net. San Diego’s last outmanned rush of the night saw Wagner ahead on right wing to deliver the glory goal.

With tonight’s win, the Gulls matched the 64 points secured by last year’s Norfolk Admirals during a 76-game AHL schedule, with fourteen games left in this year’s 68-game campaign.

The Gulls will look to keep their winning ways going when they travel to Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Saturday night for a 6pm contest against the first-place Reign.

NOTES: San Diego’s top line of Nic Kerdiles – Chris Mueller – Stefan Noesen delivered 1-3=4 points and a +3 rating for the game; over the past six games, the Gulls’ top line has created 13-18=31 points and a +13 rating…Mueller’s five-game multi-point streak came to an end but he extended his overall points streak to six games and has 10-11=21 points in his past fifteen…Brandon Montour’s second period power play assist was his 23rd of the season, and 27th power play point; both totals lead all AHL skaters…after a run of 21 straight games where it did, first goal has now failed to pick the winner in three straight Gulls games…by securing a point in overtime, the Condors increased their points lead in the season series over San Diego to 13-10, with two games remaining in the schedule, both at Valley View Casino Center.

1st Star: SD Chris Wagner (GWG, 2-0=2 points, +1 rating); 2nd Star: SD Mike Sgarbossa (0-3=3 points, +1 rating); 3rd Star: BAK Dillon Simpson (0-2=2 points, +4 rating)