Gulls Fall To Firebirds On Home IceFeb 24, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
San Diego fell to the Coachella Valley Firebirds 5-2 tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
The combination of Cameron Hughes (1-3=4), John Hayden (1-1=2) and Tye Kartye (1-1=2) highlighted a strong performance for the Firebirds, who scored 11 goals in their last two games. Goaltender Christopher Gibson stopped 26-of-28 shots to collect the win.
Rocco Grimaldi continued his strong play, collecting 1-1=2 points for another multi-point game. Pavol Regenda tallied his 10th goal of the season while Chase De Leo stretched his point streak to a fifth game with an assist. Gage Alexander allowed four goals on 20 shots in 28:07, while Olle Eriksson Ek made 10 saves in relief.
San Diego appeared to jump in front less than a minute into the game on a Grimaldi goal. The right wing cut to the slot and fired a shot past Gibson. The officials came together after the goal, ruling Regenda’s contact with the Coachella Valley netminder prevented him from playing the puck to disallow the goal.
Undeterred, Grimaldi scored again minutes later. As Coachella looked to exit their zone, the Rossmoor, CA native came flying over the blue line, intercepting a clearing attempt in the faceoff circle. He broke in alone on Gibson, quickly dekeing around the goaltender and stuffing the puck over the goal line for his 27th goal of the season.
Grimaldi continues his impressive February, collecting nine of the team’s 20 goals in the month.
The Firebirds responded with goals from Hayden and Hughes, stifling San Diego’s momentum and bringing a one-goal lead into the locker room.
Coachella kept its foot on the gas in the middle frame as Kartye opened the scoring just 1:31 into the period. His wrist shot from the circle beat a screened Alexander for Kartye’s 14th goal of the season.
Jimmy Schuldt added to the Firebirds lead with another screened goal, sending the puck through Alexander for a power-play tally at 7:14 of the second. Minutes later, Sommer made the goalie change, swapping Alexander for Eriksson Ek.
Austin Poganski welcomed the new netminder with a goal, streaking up the ice and wiring a wrister past Eriksson Ek with just over five minutes remaining.
San Diego almost found a momentum-changing goal late in the frame. De Leo carried the puck into the slot, beating Gibson with a wrist shot. His attempt hit the post and spun across the crease, finding iron again before the Firebirds cleared it away.
Despite the score, the Gulls found their game in the third period. Eriksson Ek turned aside a Max McCormick penalty shot to hold the deficit at four, and Regenda found the back of the net late to end the night on a positive.
The Gulls finish their weekend on Sunday with an afternoon matchup against the Ontario Reign at 3 p.m. PT.