Clifford Returns, Reign Roll Over San Diego Gulls

IMG_5405It was rivalry night in San Diego as the hometown Gulls took on the Ontario Reign in the Gulls final game before the all-star break. The Gulls went into the night’s matchup 2-3 in their last five, hoping to even things up. They were also looking for a little forward progress, as they sit well out of a playoff spot.

The contest marked Ontario defenseman Kurtis MacDermid’s first game against San Diego since he delivered an illegal hit to Matt Bailey, resulting in the latter being out indefinitely and a 12-game suspension for the former. Meanwhile, Kyle Clifford, assigned to the Reign on a conditioning assignment, was also in tonight’s game, taking advantage of the NHL’s All-Star break to get some work in before rejoining the LA Kings.

The physicality did not take long to get going as the teams traded hits and scoring chances which eventually led to a scuffle on the blue line that resulted in Gulls defenseman Stu Bickel dropping the gloves with MacDermid, in a fight everybody knew was coming, and helping set the stage for the rest of the evening. A late first-period goal by Reign forward Michael Mersch sent the Reign into the locker room with a one-goal lead.

A goaltender interference call on Gulls Harry Zolnierczyk halfway through the second frame resulted in a power play goal by the Reign’s Jeff Schultz, and an aggressive second period saw the Gulls left scoreless.

After a physical opening to the third period, MacDermid took a boarding penalty igniting the Gulls bench and the San Diego crowd ­- putting them on a very aggressive power play that resulted in a series of amazing chances, but Reign goaltender Peter Budaj stood tall defending his shutout. After trading chances for the remainder of the period the Gulls just could not figure out the puzzle to beating Budaj and dropped their last game before the all-star break.

Head coach Dallas Eakins said he was happy with the teams pace, but felt the Reign played a little bit faster of the game, giving them the advantage, but didn’t leave out that he felt the refs made some “rather questionable calls,” leaving his team shorthanded a few more times than he felt necessary.

When asked about the aggression shown in the game, Eakins said he thought both teams walked a fine line all night, and the he told the guys to “play whistle to whistle and not get caught up in the verbal stuff,” that he said can distract a team from staying focused on the game. “Everybody likes emotion, but sometimes you have to harness that emotion and make sure it doesn’t hamper your game.

The game was also the first game back from the NHL for defenseman Shea Theodore, who appeared in 13 games for the Anaheim Ducks scoring 2 goals and 4 assists. When asked if his reassignment was only temporary for the NHL’s all-star break, Theodore said he was not sure but certainly was leaving his phone on at night.

Gulls line combinations:

Forwards:

Nick Ritchie – Chris Mueller – Harry Zolnierczyk

Antoine Laganiere – Michael Sgarbossa – Stefan Noesen

Kyle Bonis – Kyle MacKinnon – Kenny Ryan

Andrew O’Brien – Zac Larraza – Joseph Cramarossa

Defense:

Joe Piskula – Shea Theodore

Shane O’Brien – Stu Bickel

Jaycob Megna – Brandon Montour

Goal:

Matt Hackett

Anton Khudobin

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