Reign-y Start To The Season

Perreault, Lettieri Score Power-Play Goal As Gulls Fall In Opener

Oct 16, 2021

By AJ Manderichio/

One game doesn’t make a season, but tonight’s 5-2 loss to the Ontario Reign certainly left the San Diego Gulls with a sour feeling.

“We played a hockey club that was way more in-sync, you could see a feel, a build-up of last year,” head coach Joel Bouchard said following the loss. “They were very comfortable. It was a very bad game for us, not the one we wanted. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

“We’ve got to go back to work and it’s going to take some time. I’m telling you right now, it’s going to take time, but games are not won on paper, they are won on the ice.” 

Martin Frk (2-0=2) and TJ Tynan (0-2=2) paced the Reign in scoring. Jacob Moverare, Aidan Dudas and Samuel Fagemo (PPG) also scored for Ontario, who returned many of the same faces from the team’s 2020-21 season.

Defenseman Brogan Rafferty (0-2=2) paced the Gulls offensively while both Jacob Perreault and Vinni Lettieri scored for San Diego, who saw its record in season openers fall to 4-3. Goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek stopped 27-of-32 shots.

“I think there’s more learning than building blocks,” Bouchard said of the performance. “I was (left with) eleven forwards so I had to shuffle the deck a little bit. We’ve got work to do. That’s why I came here - I wanted a challenge; I’ve got one.”

Ontario forced San Diego into several mistakes in the opening period, none more costly than Frk’s first goal of the game with just 23 seconds left in the frame.

The Reign forced a turnover in San Diego's end, leaving the puck sitting loose in the slot. Frk jumped on it, snapping a shot past the glove of Eriksson Ek and into the top of the net.

Earlier in the period, Eriksson Ek stopped Frk to keep the Reign off the board.

The forward slipped behind the Gulls defense, breaking in on San Diego's netminder and shielding the puck from the defenseman behind him. Frk tried to cut across the crease and stuff home the puck on his backhand, but Eriksson Ek stuck out his right pad and turned away the bid.

“I think they came out strong so we got caught a little bit off-guard,” Perreault explained. “We kind of picked ourselves up at the end of the game, but we still couldn’t pull through so just going into the week and full practices and give it all you’ve got. Try to look forward for the next game.”

Ontario’s offense would continue to produce in the second period, scoring twice in a 1:15 span to extend the lead to three.

Frk scored his second goal of the game, putting Ontario ahead by two with a power-play tally at 7:43 of the period.

With Kodie Curran in the box for slashing, Sean Durzi held the puck at the blue line and waited for Frk to get a clear shooting lane. The defenseman laid the puck over the Czech Republic native, and he one-timed a shot past Eriksson Ek for Ontario's second goal of the night.

Moverare extended Ontario's lead to three, scoring off a faceoff feed from Jaret Anderson-Dolan at 8:48 of the period.

The Reign defenseman collected the puck off the draw and drifted to the top of the left circle. His shot sailed over Eriksson Ek's glove for his first goal of the season.

The Gulls failed to go quietly, as Perreault scored a power-play goal with 1:59 remaining in the middle frame.

With Jordan Spence in the box for delay of game, Danny O'Regan battled for a loose puck and curled away from the side boards. He fed a pass to Rafferty, who quickly went cross-ice to a waiting Perreault. The right wing stepped into a slap shot, blasting it through the pads of Matthew Villalta to put San Diego on the board.

“There’s so much talent on this team and when you see one squeeze through like that, it’s just a really good feeling so I was really happy for that one,” Perreault said. “We’ve got so many guys, we’ve got two good units out and there’s still guys not playing on the power play that should be. We’ve got a really special group.”

Ontario extended their lead – and set off a powder keg of emotion – with Dudas’ empty-netter with 2:52 remaining in regulation.

The teams came together in front of San Diego’s bench following the goal, a scrum highlighted by Sam Carrick wrestling Reign center Alex Turcotte to the ice. The Gulls’ captain received a two-minute minor for high sticking and a 10-minute misconduct.

Fagemo took advantage, scoring Ontario’s fifth goal – and second power-play goal – with 58 seconds left in regulation. Los Angeles’ 2019 second-round selection whacked at a loose puck in front of the net, chipping it past Eriksson Ek for his first of the season.

Tempers once again flared following the goal, with Turcotte once again in the middle of it all. He exchanged shoves with Eriksson Ek before the Gulls rushed to their goalie’s defense. Hunter Drew punctuated the fracas, taking Adam Johnson down to the ice before both earned matching 10-minute misconducts.

San Diego played until the final horn, with Lettieri collecting his first goal of the season with just 12 seconds left in the game.

Sonny Milano cut into the Ontario zone, sending a cross-ice pass to a streaking Lettieri. The Excelsior, MN native tipped the puck through Villalta, who angrily reached behind him and flung the puck toward the boards after it crossed the goal line.

The Gulls will return to Pechanga Arena San Diego on Friday, October 22 to face the Stockton Heat in their Home Opener presented by Cal Coast Credit Union.

“Definitely going to use this time to work, to get better,” Bouchard said. “That’s my job. That’s why I coach. The day I won’t coach, I’ll do something else, but it’s going to take time. A lot of time.”

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