Gulls Celebrate Sommer, Drop Final Game of Regular SeasonApr 15, 2023
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The San Diego Gulls fell to the Colorado Eagles 3-1 in the team’s final game of the 2022-23 regular season tonight at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO.
Mitchell Vande Sompel led the Colorado attack with two assists. The three goals supported Justus Annunen, who turned aside 27-of-28 shots to help the Eagles clinch third place in the Pacific Division and a First Round matchup with the Ontario Reign.
Jacob Perreault scored the lone goal for the Gulls, who received 21 saves from Calle Clang in the loss.
The night marked the final game behind the bench for San Diego head coach Roy Sommer, who earlier today announced his retirement following tonight’s season finale. It concludes 27 consecutive years behind the bench with the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks organizations. Sommer finishes leading the American Hockey League in wins (828) and games coached (1,814).
The Gulls honored their coach, donning team-branded cowboy hats when they entered the arena and for the first few minutes of warmups. Sommer goes by the nickname “Cowboy,” as he owns a ranch in Montana where he spent past offseasons tending to his horses, fly fishing and more.
"It was special," Sommer said following the game. "You know, like, they all got cowboy hats. A guy that’s coaching in this league right now, who’s coaching in Providence, Ryan Mougenel, kind of gave me the name ‘cowboy’ and it kind of stuck, and kind of rolled with it. And everyone wore cowboy hats on the ice and got a little photo with it. You know, (it’ll) be something I'll remember the rest of my life."
After puck drop, Colorado struck first, as Nate Clurman opened the scoring with 6:16 remaining in the opening period. With the teams skating 4-on-4, the Eagles pounced on a loose puck at the red line, attacking the Gulls with speed as they crossed into the offensive zone. A short pass from Vande Sompel found a cutting Clurman, who beat Clang for his third goal of the season.
Ryan Sandelin extended their lead with a power-play goal, slapping a rebound past Clang with 39.2 seconds left in the period. Vande Sompel collected an assist, recording his third multi-point performance in his last four games.
Clang came up big early in the middle frame, turning aside Jason Polin to keep the deficit at two. The right wing forced a turnover in the slot, kicking the puck from his skate to his stick before firing a quick wrist shot on the Gulls netminder. Clang stood tall, snaring the shot with his glove to deny the high-danger scoring chance.
San Diego’s power play nearly broke through in the latter half of the period, only to see Justus Annunen make a prone save. A net-front scramble jarred the puck loose and the Gulls pounced on it, quickly shoveling the puck toward the net. Annunen, down on the ice, managed to hold his position and keep the puck out of the net.
Colorado pushed their lead to three, minutes later on Hudon’s goal, his team-leading 29th of the season.
Connor Hvidston saw his bid stopped in the third period, as the rookie nearly broke through with just over five minutes left in regulation. Crashing into the slot, he collected the puck and scooped it toward the net and a screened Annunen. The goaltender received some help from his defenseman, as a skate blocked the attempt and kept San Diego off the board.
Perreault finally broke through Annunen, putting the Gulls on the board with 2:55 left in the game.
The forward collected a loose puck behind the net, swinging toward the other side and bringing the puck toward the bottom of the faceoff circle. His backhand shot sailed over the shoulder of Annunen and into the top of the net for Perreault’s eighth goal of the season.
"Well, you know what, really, you look at the last four games we played," Sommer said. "Played a really good team, Calgary, and, you know, 3-2, 4-2 with an empty netter and we were in both those games. The guys competed, and that's all you can ask for. We didn't get the results we wanted. But, you know, the effort was there, their heart was in it, you know, no one quit. And then we came out here to, you know, a hard building that's, you know, it's hard to play in. A team that really needed this game tonight because I'm sure they'd rather play Ontario than Bakersfield, and they got their wish. But the guys from the drop of the puck, you know, the two games here it wasn't, you know...we ran into some really good goaltending and, you know, we didn't get a lot of puck luck, but you know, the effort was there and that and that's all you can ask for."
Still, the night belong to Sommer. As the head coach left the ice, he greeted his team, support staff and more with a grin, a handshake and a brief hug, a conclusion to an impressive career.
"You know what - I had a meeting all planned and a bunch of clips that I took out this morning when I went in to do my work and I only got to the quote, and then after that, I couldn't go any more," Sommer said. "And, you know, it was an emotional day for me. I mean, you know, I've told you this before, but I've been doing this for 60 years and and it's kind of the end of the line. And now I go to a new life with my wife and my kids and, you know, a place that, you know, we've actually planned pretty good. You know, we've got a beautiful place in Montana and we said someday we'll retire here and, and, you know, we're fortunate. Probably one of the more fortunate people that I know of, in my position, you know, it's a place we love and it's a good community and the place we live and, you know, we'll go there and figure it out. Start the next step."