Gulls, Reign Reignite Rivalry At Toyota Sports ComplexMar 3, 2021
The San Diego Gulls return to Southern California to meet the rival Ontario Reign tonight at Toyota Sports Performance Center (6 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).
San Diego won the first meeting between the clubs in dramatic fashion, a 2-1 victory on Feb. 10 at FivePoint Arena. Lukas Dostal made 40 saves to earn his third career victory and Keegan Lowe scored the game-winning goal with five seconds left in regulation. The Gulls own a five-game point streak against the Reign (3-0-2-0) and earned points in seven of the last eight matchups (5-1-2-0).
The Gulls will look for their first road victory of the season while turning the page on a disappointing series in Henderson that saw San Diego drop three straight close contests.
“We felt like we had a decent weekend but ended up with no points," head coach Kevin Dineen said. We got beat at our own game a little bit. We’ve had a couple days of good practice to shore our game up and get ready to go.”
A key for San Diego will be limiting the workload of its fifth-ranked penalty kill. The Gulls shorthanded unit (46-for-51, 90.2%) allowed only two power-play goals in the last six games but also leads the AHL with 51 shorthanded opportunities. Despite the success, San Diego remains focused on spending less time in the penalty box.
“If you’re parading yourself to the box all the time, not only are you putting yourself at a man disadvantage, but you’re also putting a lot of wear and tear on certain players in your lineup,” said Dineen. “Discipline is an area we can improve upon.”
Like the first meeting between the clubs, Wednesday’s game will feature several highly-touted prospects from the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings organizations. Rookie defenseman Jamie Drysdale was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for February after pacing league blueliners in goals and ranking second in points. Drysdale owns points in six of his 11 appearances this season, including three multi-point games.
"Jamie came in right away and impressed us with his work ethic from day one,” said Dineen. “The skating ability sticks out as a real strength of his. I love the way he passes the puck - hard, crisp and on the tape. His decision-making is beyond his years right now. Jamie has established himself as a solid contributor on both ends of the ice.”
Ontario’s roster also features several top prospects, including Quinton Byfield, the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 6-4, 215-pound center recorded 1-5=6 points in his first 10 career AHL games, but owns the league’s worst plus/minus with a -12 rating. Fellow Kings top draft picks Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari and Arthur Kaliyev are expected to play for Ontario as well. Kupari paces the Reign in scoring (1-7=8) and assists in seven games played.
Ontario is captained by 14-year veteran Brett Sutter, who ranks 19th in AHL history with 880 career games played. Sutter scored the lone Ontario goal, his 15th career shorthanded goal, in the loss to San Diego on Feb. 10.
Goaltenders Matthew Villalta and Jean-Francois Berube have split time in net for Ontario this season. Villalta stopped 25-of-27 shots in the first matchup between the clubs. Berube has appeared in 209 career AHL games but has not yet faced San Diego.