SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls will try to get a split of their two-game series with the Texas Stars Saturday evening at Valley View Casino Center after losing their season opener 3-1 before a sellout crowd.
“We are going to be a lot better,” said Escondido native Austin Ortega, who scored the Gulls goal Friday night. “The message was clear (from coach Dallas Eakins) — We got beat tonight and it’s not acceptable.”
The Gulls went one for five on the power play in front of a crowd announced at 12,920 in their fifth sellout since moving to San Diego in 2015.
“Our power play has got to be a little bit better,” Eakins said.
Texas took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Roope Hintz and Curtis McKenzie, with McKenzie’s goal coming on the power play. The Stars scored on one of their two power-play opportunities.
Following a scoreless second period, Ortega put in a rebound of a shot by Giovanni Fiore for a power-play goal with 11 minutes, four seconds to play in the third period, cutting the deficit to 2-1, but Matt Mangene scored an empty-net goal with eight seconds to play to seal the victory for Texas.
“I was just disappointed the way we started the game five-on-five,” Eakins said “We were letting them dictate, letting them make an impact while we stood around. Now the encouraging thing was that the second and third period we started to claw back. That’s how you have to play every shift.”
Eakins praised Ortega, who took a game-high five shots.
“As the game went on … Austin Ortega really came to life,” Eakins said. “We were looking at getting pucks to the net and he was certainly not afraid to shoot the puck.”
Ortega scored four goals in six games for the Gulls late last season after completing his college career at Nebraska-Omaha.
The Gulls (1-1-0-0) led 28-24 in shots, including 11-7 and 11-3 advantages in the second and third periods.
Kevin Boyle made 21 saves for the Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks American Hockey League affiliate. Mike McKenna made 27 saves for the Stars (3-0-0-0), the Dallas Stars AHL affiliate.