Gulls conclude regular season with win over Reign

SAN DIEGO – Defenseman Brian Cooper scored the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the third period as the San Diego Gulls concluded the regular season with a 5-3 victory over the Ontario Reign Saturday evening at Valley View Casino Center.

The goal gave Cooper the first two-point game of his 43-game professional career. He also assisted on Zac Larraza’s second-period goal before a Fan Appreciation Night crowd announced at 12,920.

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Escondido native Austin Ortega gave the Gulls a two-goal lead with 5:52 left with a power-play goal, the fourth goal of his six-game professional career.

Ondrej Kase had a goal and an assist for the Gulls, hours after the Anaheim Ducks reassigned him to their American Hockey League affiliate. Kevin Roy also scored for the Gulls (43-20-3-2) in their second victory over Ontario (36-21-10-1) in two nights. The Gulls were 4-3 winners in a shootout Friday night at Ontario.

The game was the second of at least five in a row between the two teams. They will open a best-of-five Calder Cup playoff series Friday at Valley View Casino Center. The Gulls finished second in the AHL’s eight-team Pacific Division and were 6-4-1-1 in the regular season against the third-place Reign, the Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate.

“It’s always good to finish with a win,” Gulls coach Dallas Eakins said. “The game didn’t mean much in terms of the standings, but when you get these two teams together there is absolutely no love lost. This sets the tone for our playoff series.”

The first three times the Gulls took leads Ontario responded to tie the score. The Reign tied the score for the third time 30 seconds before Cooper’s goal on Jonny Brodzinski’s power-play goal.

The Gulls took a 3-2 lead with 1:20 left in the second period as Larraza scored off assists by Cooper and Mitch Hults in his second game since being recalled from the Utah Grizzlies, the Ducks ECHL affiliate. The goal was Larraza’s fifth of the season for the Gulls and first since Jan. 22, also against Ontario.

Kase gave the Gulls a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal 10:44 into the second period. Ontario retied the score on Zach Leslie’s goal at 13:51 of the second period.

The first period ended in a 1-1 tie. Roy opened the scoring 13:16 into the game, off assists by Kase and Nic Kerdiles. Brodzinski tied the score at 15:08 with a power-play goal.

Goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 19 of 22 shots, improving to 14-4-0-0 with a 1.73 goals against average and .936 save percentage since first being sent to the Gulls by the Ducks Jan. 10, the same day they acquired him from him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a seventh-round choice in the 2018 NHL draft.

Reign goaltender Jack Campbell (31-14-6-0) stopped 28 of 33 shots.

The Gulls scored on two of five power-play opportunities after being held scoreless on 13 consecutive power-play opportunities and 25 of their past 26 dating back to their March 22 game against the San Jose Barracuda. Ontario scored on two of its six power-play opportunities.

Gulls defenseman Stu Bickel and Reign left wing Sam Herr drew five- minute major penalties for their fight with 18 seconds to play. Bickel also drew a game misconduct for continuing an altercation.

SAN DIEGO GULLS VS. ONTARIO REIGN FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE

GAME DATE VENUE TIME (PDT)
Game 1 Friday, April 21 Valley View Casino Center 7:00 p.m.
Game 2 Saturday, April 22 Citizens Business Bank Center 7:00 p.m.
Game 3 Friday, April 28 Valley View Casino Center 7:00 p.m.
*Game 4 Monday, May 1 Citizens Business Bank Center 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 Tuesday, May 2 Valley View Casino Center 7:00 p.m.