The San Diego Gulls (1-0-0) scored three times in the third period to spoil the 2023-24 season-opener for the Ontario Reign (0-1-0), who fell by a final score of 4-1 on Friday night at Toyota Arena.
Mikhail Maltsev scored the lone goal for Ontario in the contest, converting on a wrist shot off a loose rebound in the third period. Alex Stalock secured the win for San Diego and was named the first star of the game after making 40 saves, while Gulls’ forward Pavol Regenda scored two of the team’s goals in the contest.
San Diego took the lead with a power play goal by Regenda at 11:20 of the first period and held on to their advantage the rest of the way, holding Ontario off the scoreboard until halfway through the third.
The Reign dictated more of the play in the second period, outshooting the Gulls 12-7, but were unable to solve Stalock. The second stanza also featured a video review on a shot by San Diego that got behind Ontario’s goaltender David Rittich and appeared to hit the post, and the call on the ice of no goal was upheld.
Regenda scored his second of the night 48 seconds into the third while the Gulls were shorthanded, taking advantage of a misplay in the crease by Rittich, who saw the puck pop out of his glove and lay loose in the crease before the attacker used his skate to knock it past the goal line.
San Diego then made it 3-0 on a one-timer by Jacob Perrault from the slot at 4:57 of the third.
Maltsev got Ontario one closer at 10:09, cutting the Gulls’ lead to 3-1 with a strike in his first career game as a member of the Reign. His tally came with assists by forward Taylor Ward and defender Joe Hicketts, who put an initial shot on net that created the rebound.
Glenn Gawdin iced the game for San Diego with 1:30 left on the clock on an empty net goal from deep in the Gulls’ end.
The opening goal of the game was the only power play strike of the contest as San Diego finished 1-for-2 on the man-advantage while holding Ontario to an 0-for-6 mark on special teams. Rittich stopped 28 shots during the losing effort for the Reign in his first appearance of the season.
On what went wrong in the loss
It’s real now, and some guys still have trouble when [the game] becomes real. They’re probably not as loose as they are in the preseason and you could see it a little bit tonight. We were late on a lot of pucks, in battles, and in front of the net. We were just a little bit behind and at the end of the day, they wanted it more than us. We had a really good preseason and everything went pretty smoothly, so tonight is something we have to learn from. It might be a good thing.
On Brandt Clarke’s performance
We were just saying that we thought he was definitely our best defenseman. He made stuff happen. He wants to be a difference in the game. He’s a guy who is not afraid to try different things. He was definitely really good tonight.
On the power play struggles
We were not good enough. They scored on their power play, they score on their penalty kill, and then they scored an empty netter. We had a bunch of opportunities on the power play. We changed a few plays around and I think that’s why we had a more chances [later in the game]. This is always an area that’s been good in the past and now we’ve got to make sure that with different people and different personnel, we go back to having a good power play because it makes a big difference.
On San Diego coming out quick
I think there was no surprise. We tried to warn [the players], and we talked about it. Now, I think they know its for real. We cannot get outworked by them and especially not in our building. That’s on us. That’s on every individual, so we have to make sure that we’re going to go home today and think about that. Tomorrow we’re going to prepare our guys again and move on. There’s a lot of hockey left, so hopefully we learn from it and move on.
On Mikhail Maltsev’s first game with Ontario
He’s good. He’s just very hard-working every day. He never complains. He wants to be better and get better every day. I personally think he’s an even better center and that’s why I switched him there [at the end]. He’s a good hockey player and he showed it tonight.
The Reign and Gulls meet up again on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena beginning at 3 p.m.