Vinni Lettieri's Three-Point Night Leads Gulls Past ReignOct 11, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
It’s a perfect preseason for the San Diego Gulls.
Vinni Lettieri’s shorthanded goal helped clinch a perfect exhibition record for San Diego as they defeated the rival Ontario Reign 5-2 tonight at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. He led all skaters with three points (1-2=3) and finished the preseason with 2-2=4 points in two games.
Buddy Robinson and Jack Badini collected multi-point efforts (0-2=2) while Brogan Rafferty, Alex Limoges, Bryce Kindopp and Kodie Curran found the back of the net. Goaltender Lukas Dostal, recently reassigned by Anaheim, stopped 23 shots in his first preseason start with the team.
"I mean winnings always better, right?" Robinson said following the win. "A lot to work on. A little sloppy. I think it’s a preseason game for them and us too. Working on things, finding guys. Everyone’s a new face right now so we’re just trying to find those lines and get some chemistry going. Winnings better than losing, so it’s just always fun to win. So happy with our team. We got a lot of talent, so it’ll be an exciting season. Really ready to get going."
Lettieri’s shorthanded goal came late in the first period, shortly after his team killed off a 5-on-3 Ontario power play. Badini cleared a puck to center ice, and Lettieri took it from there, beating the Reign to the puck and racing in on Ontario netminder Garret Sparks. The Minnesota native gave a quick head fake before moving the puck to his backhand and firing a shot over Sparks that hit the post and settled in the back of the net for his second goal of the preseason.
"Passionate hockey player, wants to know what's going on, very aware on the bench, very aware on the ice, so that's exciting to see engagement," Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said when asked about the veteran's performance. "I have to say that he's been the one that's asked a lot of questions and he wants to make sure we're on the same page. Like you said, many days it's important to have guys that take charge."
The teams opened the scoring earlier in the period, with Limoges and Brett Sutter trading goals just over a minute apart.
Limoges collected his second goal of the preseason at 3:51 of the opening frame. Robinson came in on the forecheck, using his size to poke a bouncing puck toward Sparks. He followed up his shot, collecting the rebound and sending it to the front of the net. It eventually reached Limoges, who fired the puck into an empty net to start the scoring.
Sutter responded at 4:57 of the period, collecting his first goal of the preseason on a quick shot past Dostal.
Brogan Rafferty continued his impressive training camp, slicing through the Ontario defense to give the Gulls a 2-1 lead with under five minutes left in the period.
The defenseman collected the puck at the blue line and plowed ahead, dashing through the stick checks of four separate Reign skaters. He slid the puck through the five hole of Sparks for his second goal of the preseason.
Sparks made 13 saves in his two periods of work. Matthew Villalta took over in the third period.
Johan Sodergran brought Ontario within one with 4:37 left in the second period.
The left wing found a soft spot low in the zone and converted a feed from Nikita Pavlychev, snapping a one-time shot past the outstretched glove of Dostal for his first goal of the preseason.
"We didn't have quite the performance we had a few days ago," Bouchard said. "That being said, a lot of new guys coming in the lineup, a lot of guys that have been playing a long time. I thought we were out of sync from time to time, which is going to take a little bit of time and I'm going to be demanding on some of the stuff, so I'm counting on the next few days of practice and let's see how we react next game. I think we had some timely goal and some timely save. I'm more looking at the process and like I said, I think it was an up-and-down game."
Kindopp secured the win, scoring a key insurance goal with 5:49 remaining in the third period.
The second-year Gull worked himself into the slot and wasted no time firing a Lettieri pass toward the net. The puck deflected off the stick of Jordan Spence and past Villalta for Kindopp’s first goal of the preseason.
Curran iced the victory, hitting the empty net from center ice with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
San Diego will open its 2021-22 regular-season schedule on Saturday, Oct. 16 against the Reign at Toyota Arena.
"Yeah definitely, it’s going to be nice when the puck drops and points are on the line and it actually matters," Robinson said. "So we’re excited. It’s been a long month here at training camp. Everyone’s ready to kinda ease into the season here and then full board on Saturday when we get going."