Gulls Leave Ontario Victorious

Grimaldi Delivers In Overtime As Gulls Dethrone Reign

Feb 26, 2023

By AJ Manderichio/

The San Diego Gulls earned an impressive 2-1 overtime win over their rival Ontario Reign at Toyota Arena.

Rocco Grimaldi tallied two points – including the game-winner – as San Diego snapped a four-game winless streak. Drew Helleson also found the back of the net for San Diego, who helped Olle Eriksson Ek grab a win after a 21-save performance.

"Just stuck with it," Grimaldi said following the win. "Got to give a shout out to Olle (Eriksson Ek) - what a game. We've hung him out to dry a lot this year and I know it's been a tough year for him. His best friend, his roommate gets traded last week so I'm sure that's just like another dagger in the heart, and he comes in last game, plays awesome. Comes in this game and I think it was his best game of the year - stands on his head make some unbelievable saves. I don't know if we should have won that one so hats off to him. He played a heck of a game, we stayed with it and got the two points."

Samuel Fagemo scored for the Reign, who suffered just their second loss in their last six games.

Helleson opened the scoring, snapping his fifth goal of the year past Cal Petersen at 3:43 of the first.

Grimaldi held the puck along the blue line, firing a pass down to Chase De Leo. The Gulls’ captain curled with the puck toward the boards, skating toward the point before finding Helleson. The defenseman drifted to the center of the point and sent a low wrist shot through traffic, tucking his shot into the bottom of the net to give San Diego the lead.

"Their game tonight, you know, they started us off, put the puck back to (Drew) Helleson for the goal and got us on the board early and then we hung on to that and actually played a really good period, defended the middle of the ice," Gulls head coach Roy Sommer said about Grimaldi and De Leo. "And then Rocco, you know, they have a turnover on a breakaway, and you know, game over. So, you know, good for him."

They brought the lead into the locker room following a disallowed Reign goal with just over a minute left in the opening period. A hand pass helped Ontario get a prime scoring chance, with the officials blowing the play dead as the puck went into the back of the net.

The Gulls almost doubled their lead early in the middle frame, but an incredible save from Petersen kept them at one. The Reign goaltender found himself down and out following a scrum in front. Grimaldi found Michael Del Zotto streaking in from the point, and the defenseman wired a wrist shot at the open net. Petersen lunged across the crease to snag the shot, earning a tap on the pads from Del Zotto and a stunned expression on Grimaldi.

Fagemo tied the game at one early in the final frame, one-timing a shot from the faceoff dot for a power-play goal.

The teams stayed even through regulation, forcing a second straight overtime contest. Eriksson Ek made several key stops over the final 20 minutes, none bigger than a sliding save on Ontario's Aidan Dudas around the six-minute mark of the period.

"It was a great effort by everyone," Helleson said. "I thought Olle (Eriksson Ek) had a great game. It was really fun to see him play well, and us play well in front of him. That was just an awesome, awesome all-around team win there."

After falling in the extra session last week, Grimaldi ensured the Gulls ended the season series with a win, beating Petersen for the game-winning overtime tally just 1:09 into overtime.

"I mean, they had the same three guys that started the game, or the overtime, so they were a little tired and the three of us had just gotten out," Grimaldi explained. "So, I don't know if they recognized that, so we had a little bit of an advantage. We did a good job just being calm. They were kind of working around a little bit, weren't getting any good opportunities, but they were moving. We did a good job switching off guys. Then, (Lias) Andersson tried to go at me one-on-one. I just got to stick on it and went for a breakaway and, thankfully, no one was close enough, and put it in."

With the goal, the Rossmoor, CA. native became just the second player to score 10 goals in a single month in San Diego’s AHL history, tying former captain Sam Carrick (10, Nov. 2019). He’s also the first Gull since Carrick in Mar. 2021 to post 13 points in a single month. He ended the night leading the AHL in goals (27) and leads San Diego in goals, assists (27) and points (27-27=54).

"It has to do with what I've been doing off the ice - just the studying of the game, trying to figure out ways to score," Grimaldi said. "I went on like a 10 or 11-game stretch there where I wasn't scoring, and it wasn't going well. I needed to sit back and reevaluate and see what was going on. Now, I kind of found myself, and I’m not satisfied with just a good month or a good stretch. It's the ebbs and flows of a long season - you have good, you have bad. When you have good, you can't be too cocky about it and overconfident. You’ve got to keep doing what I'm doing off the ice to do what you want on the ice, and keep moving forward and try to help our team win every night."

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