Gulls Winless Streak Reaches Three In Loss To Ontario ReignOct 23, 2021
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
Tonight’s results show a loss on the scoreboard, but San Diego emerged with hope it’s turning a corner.
The Gulls winless streak reached three to start the season with a 5-1 loss to the rival Ontario Reign at Toyota Arena. It saw Ontario extend its season-opening point streak to five games (4-0-1-0) while finishing the night allowing five-or-more goals for the third consecutive contest.
But in the results, Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard saw tangible improvement.
“I think it was our best game so far and it’s not the result that we want, but I cannot coach a result,” he explained following the game. “There was better effort. We didn’t have the week of practice that we wanted this week and I like the players stepping up today. I think we got lucky in the first period either for the couple of bounces there, but you’ve got to get out as a group and we did that in the third period. So again, not perfect and I like that the guys were a little irritated, so we start digging.”
Vinni Lettieri – who scored the lone goal for San Diego – shared the same sentiment following the game.
“Yeah, I think we showed positive things in that game,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not happy with where we’re sitting right now, but as we’re talking about every day, we’re worried about the end of the season. So, if it’s taking a step in the right direction today for the end of the season, then that’s all we can control.”
Another slow start hampered San Diego, as Ontario jumped ahead with two goals in 49 seconds early in the first period.
Aidan Dudas opened the scoring, earning his second goal of the season at 5:46 of the opening frame. The forward collected a pass near the top of the circle and fired a low wrist shot toward the net, snaking his attempt through traffic and past a screened Olle Eriksson Ek for the game's first goal.
A fortunate bounce gave Ontario it's second goal at 6:35 of the period.
Brayden Burke intercepted a pass from Brogan Rafferty and tried to send the puck to the slot. It deflected off a stick and off the back of an unsuspecting Eriksson Ek for Burke's third goal of the season.
Ontario continued to find the net in the middle frame, scoring twice more to stretch its advantage to four.
A power-play goal from Anderson-Dolan made it 3-0 for the Reign with 7:13 remaining in the period.
With Brayden Tracey serving a minor penalty for goaltender interference, Tyler Madden carried the puck over the blue line, floating a pass to a streaking T.J. Tynan. The reigning American Hockey League Most Valuable Player fed a pass to Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who fired a shot past the outstretched Eriksson Ek for his first goal of the season.
Tynan is tied for the league lead in assists (6) and is tied for second in points (0-6=6).
Ontario scored its fourth goal on the game with just under four minutes remaining in the period.
Jacob Moverare collected a loose puck in the slot, turning and spinning a pass to Helge Grans near the side of the net. He fed Austin Wagner with a cross-crease pass, and the forward waited for Eriksson Ek to commit before sending a shot high into the net for his second goal of the season.
Lettieri’s goal came just 10 seconds into the final frame..
San Diego attacked right off the opening faceoff, with Buddy Robinson winning the draw back to Rafferty. The defenseman found Lettieri with a pass through the neutral zone, and San Diego's forward did the rest, burying his breakaway chance for his second goal of the season.
“I think we had some good looks in the third period five-on-five, but you’re right (on) that goal,” Bouchard explained. “Max Talbot, who’s worked that faceoff, which is fun to work on something and you get rewarded.”
Lettieri’s strike bested Chris Mueller for the fastest goal to start a third period, eclipsing his score just 14 seconds into the final frame against Stockton on Mar. 5, 2016.
Rafferty extended his point streak to three games (1-2=3), tying a career-high. Robinson earned an assist in a second straight game (0-2=2).
San Diego's power play is a bright spot early in the season. The team recorded its fourth man-advantage goal tonight and ended the night as the league's top power-play team (36%, 4-for-11).
The goal propelled San Diego to a strong final frame, as momentum helped them outshoot the Reign 16-7.
It seemed San Diego shrunk Ontario’s advantage, as Jack Badini and the Gulls looked to push a puck past Reign goaltender Matthew Villalta and over the goal line in the latter half of the period. After a lengthy review, the officials determined the Gulls did not score.
“Yeah, I think we actually did a lot of good things in the offensive zone, especially Badini’s line there,” Lettieri said. “When the goal got reviewed, we all though it went in. Just stuff like that changes the momentum, puts them on their heels a little bit. But like we said, if we can take a step in the right direction tonight, then that’s a big thing for us.”
Samuel Fagemo would add on for the Reign, netting their fifth goal with 58 seconds left in regulation. Ontario finished with Moverare and Madden pacing their attack, each posting multi-assist performances. The offense supported a sterling effort for Villalta, who finished with 33 saves.
The Gulls road trip continues next weekend, when they close the month of October in Arizona against the Tucson Roadrunners. The teams open the two-game series on Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. PT.