With the San Diego Gulls playoff schedule locked in, tonight’s matchup against the Ontario Reign was served only a symbolic closure to the team’s inaugural season, closing out the regular season against their number one rivals.
The teams played each other 24-hours earlier and the tension from that game spilled over into the night’s till as the teams traded shots, but more frequently traded hits. It took just over half the first period for the Reign to strike first when forward Joel Lowry picked up a loose rebound off a rush and buried the puck behind Gull’s goaltender Matt Hackett. The Gulls rallied immediately after, picking up the aggression and only four minutes later Gulls forward Corey Tropp put the puck in the net, evening up the teams up.
The second period saw similar back and forth action, with teams trading hits and penalties, and the game’s officials seemed determined to stop any altercation into becoming an all-out brawl. It was the Reign, however, that would break the tie after right-winger Matt Schmalz found the back of the net, eventually sending the Gulls into the locker room down by one.
When the teams took the ice for third the bad blood was boiling over and after trading shots, hits, and penalties the officials eventually lost control and a line brawl broke out between the teams and it took the officials everything they had to keep the teams goalies from attacking each other with Matt Hackett at center ice fighting to get loose to exchange punches with Reign goaltender Michael Houser.
After the scuffle settled and play resumed, it was the Reign that took a series of penalties putting them on an extended power-play that eventually resulted in a Gulls tying goal by Corey Tropp. It was almost immediately followed up by a goal from Gulls enforcer Brian McGrattan who picked the top shelf with a wrist shot from the point, putting the Gulls up by one for the first time in the game. In true McGrattan fashion, following his goal he immediately got into a scuffle with the Reign players, sending some equipment flying towards the teams bench,putting himself in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct following the goal.
McGrattan’s goal proved to be enough and the San Diego Gulls closed out their first season with a 3 – 2 victory over their biggest rival, the Ontario Reign.
After the game, Brian McGrattan said the game winning goal meant a lot to him, especially against a team he said he “can’t stand.” “I don’t really like anybody on their team, starting from their coach all the way down, not one person on that team. It’s nice to get the game-winning goal and hopefully, we play those guys moving forward at some point.”
Head coach Dallas Eakins said he was very happy that the team is headed to the playoff off a big win, and is looking forward facing off against the Texas Stars in first-round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. “I think we have a lot to feel good about, I think we had five guys in our line-up that joined us over the last two weeks and I thought they played very well.”
When it comes to facing the Stars next week, a team they have struggled against most of the season, Eakins said he feels the team is better prepared to face them and they “are a lot deeper.”
Kevin Roy – Chris Mueller – Corey Tropp
Kalle Kossilla – Michael Sgarbossa – Ondrej Kase
Antoine Langaniere – Matt Bailey – Brian McGrattan
Joseph Camarossa – Kyle MacKinnon – Deven Sideroff
Jaycob Megna – Brandon Montour
Joe Piskula – Andy Welinski
Brian Cooper – Stu Bickel