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Gulls Down Reign 5-3 in AHL Exhibition at Honda Center

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks


1st Period
2nd Period
3:41 SD Chris Mueller - ASST: Ondrej Kase, Antoine Laganiere 1-0 SD
3:47 ONT Nic Dowd - Unassisted
1-1 Tie
7:13 SD Shea Theodore - ASST: Stefan Noesen, Nick Ritchie 2-1 SD
11:47 SD PPG - Nick Ritchie - ASST: Chris Mueller, Max Friberg 3-1 SD
14:31 SD Brian McGrattan - Joe Piskula, Nick Kerdiles 4-1 SD
19:41 ONT PPG - Kevin Gravel - ASST: Nick Dowd 4-2 SD
3rd Period
18:31 SD EN - Stefan Noesen - Unassisted 5-2 SD
19:48 ONT Johnny Brodzinski - ASST: Andrew Crescenzi 5-3 SD

By Adam Brady

ANAHEIM – Fans got their first look at a couple of future AHL rivals – and some prospective Ducks and Kings – as the San Diego Gulls downed the Ontario Reign 5-3 in an exhibition battle in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Honda Center.

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The Gulls (Anaheim’s American Hockey League affiliate) and Reign (LA’s AHL affiliate) are two of the pioneer teams in the new seven-team Pacific Division of the AHL’s Western Conference. Tonight's game was the finale of a home-and-home between the two teams, with the Gulls winning 3-2 in a shootout Friday night in Ontario.

"It was a good crowd for a team that isn’t located here," said Ducks 2014 first round pick Nick Ritchie, who had a goal, an assist and a big fight tonight. "It’s nice to see the fans come out and support the affiliate team. It was a good game. It was a cool experience."

San Diego opens its season this Saturday, October 10 against the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit’s affiliate) at its new home arena, Valley View Casino Center. Ontario opens that same day at the home of the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton affiliate).

The potential animosity between the AHL representatives of the bitter Ducks-Kings rivalry was foreshadowed early in the game, when Gulls goalie John Gibson knocked down Ontario center Kris Newbury and got called for a roughing minor.

Late in the first, San Diego’s Bryan Moore and Ontario’s Kevin Raine dropped the gloves for a bout in which not much was landed. And just after the horn for that period, Ritchie got into it with Ontario’s Ryan Horvat, with Ritchie landing several hard rights to the delight of the crowd.

San Diego scored the game’s first goal 3:41 into the second when Chris Mueller scored off a pass from behind the net from Ondrej Kase. But the Reign came right back as Nic Dowd scored unassisted on a scramble in front of the net.

The Gulls took a 2-1 lead a few minutes later when defenseman Shea Theodore (Anaheim’s first round pick in 2013) cashed in a wrister from near the right wing circle on assists from Stefan Noesen and Ritchie.

San Diego made it 3-1 on the power play with a little more than eight minutes left, as Mueller faked a shot on the rush and fed to Ritchie, who redirected it through from the top of the crease.

"It was good to be up here for a while and play almost all of the preseason games," Ritchie said. "I feel good about my game right now. Hopefully I can keep playing well in San Diego."

Veteran NHLer Brian McGrattan gave the Gulls a three-goal lead when his shot from low in the left wing circle snuck through Ontario goalie Michael Houser.

An increasingly irritable McGrattan took a slashing penalty that led to Ontario’s second goal, as Kevin Gravel found the net with 18.1 left in the second.

The scoring didn’t continue at the same pace in the third, until Ontario emptied its net with a little more than two minutes left, and Noesen filled it from the blue line with 1:29 remaining. 

Ontario got a goal on the rush from Johnny Brodzinski with 12.9 seconds left, but it was too little too late for the Reign. The Gulls, meanwhile, left with a satisfying win and some momentum going into the opening of their inaugural season.

"In my limited time in San Diego, everywhere I turn, people are excited," said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. "There is a real buzz about having another sports team there. It’s a great opportunity for our players to get a taste of developing in a big-league city. They’re not developing in a small, little town in the East. This is a city that has a pro football team, a pro baseball team, and now they have a pro hockey team. It’s good for our players to get a taste of that big-league city atmosphere."

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