Gulls Open Homestand With Win Over Rival ReignDec 11, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
A return to the nest is just what the San Diego Gulls needed.
Hunter Drew’s power-play goal stood as the game-winning tally as the Gulls snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the rival Ontario Reign tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Brayden Tracey and Brogan Rafferty also scored for San Diego, who extended its home point streak to five games (4-0-1-0).
“I didn’t think it was terrible last night," head coach Joel Bouchard said. "I thought we were good at moments. I would’ve liked some, you know, detail to be better last night and I challenged the guys this morning. I told them that being close was not good enough for me and although they’re a great team at every position, I felt that that we had better and we had more on some details and the guys definitely brought it tonight in our lineup and it was fun to coach the boys tonight."
Olle Eriksson Ek collected his third win in his last four starts, stopping 26-of-27 shots to keep Ontario at bay.
“Huge performance," Tracey said of his goalie following the win. "I mean Olle was the man tonight. Everybody knows that he’s a competitor, he has a huge heart and battles his way for us in that net."
Helge Grans scored the lone goal for Ontario. Garret Sparks, making his fifth start of the season, stopped 11 shots in the loss.
Eriksson Ek locked in right from puck drop, making several key saves to deny Ontario an early lead.
Adam Johnson found a soft spot in the San Diego zone, taking a Quinton Byfield pass and spinning to get the puck on his forehand. Eriksson Ek came out of his net to challenge, stopping Johnson's bid. A mass of bodies crashed into the net, knocking over the netminder. The Gulls rallied around him, keeping Ontario's forwards away from the net and shoving the puck under Eriksson Ek's pads to get a whistle.
“I mean, that’s like kind of a part of the game as a goalie," he explained following the win. "You know, when you play good teams to try to survive or not let in anything in the first ten and make the team feel good. So, I tried to keep us in the game for those first ten and I’m happy with how we came out."
Just minutes after that sequence, Kodie Curran helped his goaltender and turned away the Reign twice, making two plays in front to keep Ontario off the board. With Eriksson Ek lying prone at the side of the net, Curran quickly covered the yawning goalmouth and sticked away a stuff attempt. He stood his ground, eventually using his skate to kick away a loose puck as players converged to jam the puck home. Greg Printz did the rest, clearing the puck from in front of the net.
The Gulls found their footing after the early pressure, with Tracey putting his team on the board with 2:52 left in the opening frame.
Defenseman Greg Pateryn started the play, sending T.J. Tynan to the ice and poking the puck to a charging Tracey. The right wing carried the puck in on a 2-on-1 rush, faking a pass to Pateryn before firing a wrist shot low the blocker side for the game's first goal.
"Once I got that puck, I kind of saw Patty (Pateryn) going and that d (defense) was giving me time so I know I had to kind of fake or do something in order to beat that goalie," he explained. "I know he’s good on that side and happily enough, I scored it."
Tracey extended his point streak to three games (2-1=3) with the goal. He’s tied for the team lead in scoring (7-10=17) and is second in goals.
San Diego continued the pressure in the second period, scoring twice to open a three-goal advantage.
Drew struck first, putting the Gulls ahead by two with a power-play goal at 2:49 of the middle frame.
Trevor Carrick started the play, chasing down a bouncing puck near the blue line and swatting it toward the slot. Alex Limoges tipped the pass, directing it over the stick of Jacob Moverare and to an open Drew in front. The forward slid his attempt through the legs of Sparks for his third goal of the season.
The power play goal is a welcomed sight for the Gulls. Despite being a top-10 unit
Brogan Rafferty kept San Diego's foot on the gas, picking up his third goal of the season with 8:46 left in the period.
Tracey laid a big hit in the defensive zone, freeing the puck and starting the rush. He fed Danny O'Regan, who carried the puck into Ontario's end. He found Jacob Perreault, who faked a shot as he went streaking down the wing. The move opened a passing lane, and the right wing hit Rafferty coming down from the point. The defenseman didn't miss, wiring a wrist shot over a sliding Sparks and into the top of the net.
After ending his six-game pointless streak last night, Perreault picked up a point in a second consecutive game (1-1=2). He's tied with Tracey for the team lead in points (8-9=17). O'Regan also earned an assist in a second consecutive game.
Grans put Ontario on the board with 2:41 remaining in the second period, converting on a loose puck near the side of the net for his third goal of the season.
San Diego would lock it down in the third period, with Eriksson Ek and the team building off an early penalty kill to snuff out any hopes of a Reign comeback.
"Well, I think both of them have been really good and he’s given us a chance to win," Bouchard said of his young netminder. "Like I said, a young team and I thought we got a little slow at the start, but we pushed the guy and really challenged the guy tonight. I thought he responded well, didn’t give them an inch. I challenged them this morning and although last night was a good performance, like I said you guys, I need more, I want better and I thought tonight we were better. So, congrats on the guys and Olle was definitely part of it."
The team continues its homestand on Wednesday when they host the American Hockey League’s newest team, the Abbotsford Canucks, for the first time in franchise history.