Led by goaltender Pheonix Copley, who made 44 saves in an outstanding effort, the Ontario Reign (3-1-0) spoiled the home opener for the San Diego Gulls (1-2-0) and earned a victory in the first game of the 2022-23 SoCal Series by a 2-1 final score on Friday night at Pechanga Arena.
After the game was scoreless for the first 43 minutes, Aidan Dudas broke the ice with his second goal of the season. An insurance tally by Alan Quine at 11:13 of the third ended up being the game-winning strike after a late score by San Diego’s Rocco Grimaldi.
More from head coach Marco Sturm and Copley below.
In addition to Copley’s strong play, Gulls’ netminder Lukas Dostal was also on his game, making 34 saves and denying multiple high-end Ontario looks throughout.
The Reign had the better of the play in the first, out-shooting San Diego 15-10 and putting pressure on the Gulls in the final minutes of the frame which began with a lengthy 4-on-4 situation.
San Diego came out with momentum to begin the second, putting 10 shots on goal in the first seven minutes of the frame. Copley stood tall during the onslaught, continually denying the opportunities that were sent his way. The most notable chance for the Gulls came when a penalty shot was awarded to Blake McLaughlin at 6:09 of the period, which Copley also turned out.
The Reign began the third period with a two-minute power play, but were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage. Moments after the chance, Ontario’s third line went to work in the offensive zone, and Dudas broke the ice, scoring the first goal of the night on a loose rebound at the side of the San Diego net. Assists on the strike went to Akil Thomas and Tyler Madden.
With 13 minutes to play in the third period, Jordan Spence had a chance to extend the lead when he found himself free on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box where he was serving a slashing penalty, but his shot hit the post.
Four minutes later, Ontario padded the lead with an insurance goal from Alan Quine which was set up by captain TJ Tynan, who fed a pass cross-ice through a defender’s legs. The assist extended Tynan’s season-opening point streak to four games and allowed Quine to score for the second consecutive contest. The goal also had a second assist creditred to Kim Nousiainen, who secured his first point of the year in his second appearance.
The Gulls didn’t go quietly and finally broke through on Copley when Grimaldi found the back of the net with a blast during a power play opportunity. San Diego made it a 6-on-4 situation with 3:57 left in the game after Dudas was whistled for holding and Grimaldi scored just 11 seconds into the advantage.
Ontario buckled down defensively after allowing the goal and kept any remaining Gulls chances out of the net in the final minutes to secure its third victory of the season.
Grimaldi’s goal was the only power play tally in the contest, as San Diego finished 1-for-4 and held the Reign to an 0-for-4 mark. The Gulls outshot Ontario 45-36 overall, with Grimaldi accounting for 11 of their shots on net.
The teams wrap up their weekend home-and-home series on Saturday night at Toyota Arena at 6 p.m. PST
On what it was like to watch a crazy back-and-forth game from the bench
It was even fun for us to. I know we won the game, but I think it was a good game. On both sides, guys were worked hard. They worked for each other. We had an unbelievable goalie tonight, so thanks to him we got the two points.
Elaborating on Copley’s play in the win
He made, especially in the second period, San Diego pushed really hard, they had a breakaway, they had a penalty shot. So he saved all of them and as players, I think if you see that, and yeah, it shouldn’t happen, but it’s a good problem to have a guy like him in the net. He calms things down. He had some rebounds, but most of them he covered it well. He was by far the number one star today.
On what he learned about his team in the game
I think the stuff we did today was more like the team we wanted to be. We touched on a lot of things. I think we wanted to be better defensively and I think that’s what we did, and the guys have to buy in and I think they slowly do. I’m not a big fan of a high-risk game, that’s just not me and that’s not the LA Kings so we have a plan and I think today they showed it. Sometimes yeah, you’re not going to score eight goals every night, but things will happen and I’d rather win those kinds of games than 8-2, I can tell you that.