Young Gulls Lead The Way In Physical 6-4 Win Vs. ReignOct 15, 2023
By Nick Aguilera/SanDiegoGulls.com
Things got chippy at Toyota Arena on Sunday afternoon, as the San Diego Gulls took down the rival Ontario Reign 6-4 for their second straight win to open the season.
A total of 32 minutes of penalties were given out in the second period alone – 18 to Ontario and 14 to San Diego – including a 10-minute misconduct to Ontario’s Brandt Clarke.
"I forgot about [the rivalry] coming back to the division a couple hours down the road," defenseman Trevor Carrick said. "It’s always been pretty intense, but that’s why you play, right? You play for those rival games. When you see each other quite a few times during the season, you pick up on each other and the games get tight. They make for some fun hockey games."
After going 6-for-6 on Friday night, San Diego’s penalty kill struggled to keep Ontario at bay in the second, giving up two power-play goals to Alex Turcotte and Clarke, but still recovered to kill 5-of-7 penalties. Jacob Perreault made up for the special teams’ shortcomings to end the period, putting the Gulls up one with his second goal in as many games.
"They clearly made some adjustments," Gulls head coach Matt McIlvane said. "They had a good plan, and they have a really potent and dangerous power play. We got to practice a lot of penalty killing this weekend.
"It’s not easy to get that done early. I’m sure that [assistant coach Jason Clarke] will look at it and say there’s room to grow. But I think there’s a lot of positives. Bottom line, we don’t want to be having to use it that often, but we had a bunch of warriors that were blocking a lot of pucks, and our goalie was excellent."
Ontario got the board first with a goal from Ryan Francis on a 2-on-1 break midway through the first period, but the lead didn’t last long. Andrew Agozzino evened it up at 15:17 in the first, depositing a Glenn Gawdin pass for power-play goal, his first of the season.
Olen Zellweger tallied an assist, giving him three helpers in two games (0-3=3) to open the season.
Ben King had an AHL debut to remember, netting his first career professional goal 9:07 into the second period. Travis Howe and Tyson Hinds also got on the board with their first career AHL assists on the goal.
"It’s nice to get that one early in the year and give me some confidence," King said. "It was awesome playing tonight and getting the win at the end. A good four points against a really good team. It was a fun game for me and for the whole team.
"The puck went to the point, and I was in the corner and just tried to get to the net. Fortunately enough, the puck came my way and [I] just got a stick on it. So, it’s a lucky bounce, but I’ll take it."
The kids kept it going minutes later as Judd Caulfield scored his first career AHL goal to give the Gulls a 3-2 lead. Nathan Gaucher recorded his first career AHL assist with the lone helper. Despite the limited experience, the young Gulls are finding their way.
"We’ve got two goals here: to develop and win," McIlvane said. "We know that if we don’t develop, we don’t have a chance. There were two or three of our first-year players that I thought had their best game that I’ve seen from them so far including rookie tournament, including main camp and including the start of the season. It’s fun. It’s good to see those guys have some success because they’re going to carry a lot of the ball for us."
Pavol Regenda put the Gulls in the driver’s seat, scoring his third goal on the young season to put San Diego up two with eight minutes to play.
Ontario pulled within one with a little over three minutes to play as Charles Hudon tipped one in, but the Gulls hung on and Josh Lopina put the nail in the coffin with an empty netter in the final second.
Calle Clang set a new AHL career-high in saves, stopping 35-of-39 shots to earn his first win of the season.
The Gulls will be in action at Pechanga Arena San Diego for the first time in the 2023-24 season this Friday, Oct. 20 at the Home Opener presented by Cal Coast Credit Union against the Reign for the third straight game (7 p.m. PT).