Gulls Stifle Firebirds

Grimaldi Leads Gulls To Comeback Overtime Win

Feb 10, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

Rocco Grimaldi delivered in overtime, sending the San Diego Gulls past the Coachella Valley Firebirds 2-1 tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

The win snaps a five-game losing streak for San Diego and nets the Gulls their first franchise win over the American Hockey League’s newest team. It marks just the second time they played after regulation this season, and the first on home ice.

Pavol Regenda also scored in regulation for San Diego, who received a stellar 35-save performance from Lukas Dostal in the win.

The two teams played a scoreless – and fiery – first 40 minutes. The third game in less than a week between the two Pacific Division rivals brought the bad blood early, with both teams finishing checks at every chance. The chippy play led to trouble for the Gulls, who found themselves shorthanded three times in the opening frame. The team’s penalty kill held strong, and the team leaned on Dostal to keep Coachella Valley off the board.

The Gulls netminder found himself pressed into duty in the first, making two great saves near the midway mark of the period. The co-Most Valuable Player of the AHL’s All-Star Challenge stopped a shot through traffic, poking a loose puck away from the crease. It found a Coachella stick and quickly came back on net, forcing Dostal to kick out the pad and turn away the chance.

The second period featured more of the same, with the San Diego penalty kill stepping up to eliminate two more power-play opportunities. Dostal also contributed another key save, stopping Jesper Froden after the Firebirds forward forced a turnover in the slot.

Coachella Valley would break through to start the final frame.

Kole Lind converted on the team’s sixth power-play opportunity of the night, beating Dostal with a wrist shot from the top of the circle at 2:47 of the third period. The goal – his 17th of the season – matches a career-high for Vancouver’s second-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Pavol Regenda tied the game shortly after, grabbing his 10th goal of the season at 4:03 of the period. The wing took a pass from Glenn Gawdin and moved into the defensive zone, putting a low shot on Joey Daccord. The Coachella Valley netminder failed to control the rebound and Regenda alertly stopped near the crease, collecting the puck and swiping it past the netminder for the game-tying tally.

The score held throughout the remainder of regulation, sending the Gulls into overtime for the first time since a shootout win at Abbotsford on Oct. 29, 2022. Grimaldi ensured this game would end in the extra session, scoring the game-winning tally 34 seconds into overtime.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx carried the puck into the offensive zone, drifting to the side boards with possession. His centering pass hit a Firebirds stick but found Grimaldi, who shoveled a shot toward the net from the slot. Daccord couldn’t handle the rebound and the Gulls leading scorer followed his shot, poking home the puck for his 19th goal of the season.

San Diego will look to win back-to-back contests tomorrow when they face the Bakersfield Condors at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield at 7 p.m. PT.

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