Gulls Rally Past Ontario 3-2 in Regular Season Finale
SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Gulls scored two goals within 29 seconds late in the third period to turn a tense and physical game around, beating the Ontario Reign 3-2 in front of a raucous crowd of 11,705 at Valley View Casino Center. Brian McGrattan's top shelf score at 15:14 of the third electrified the crowd and sent San Diego (39-23-4-2) into the Calder Cup Playoffs on a high note.
Corey Tropp scored twice for the Gulls, including the equalizer on a power play at 14:45 of the third period, just before McGrattan's game-winning shot. The Ontario Reign (44-19-4-1) surrendered a third period lead for the first time all season to lose in the AHL regular season finale for both teams. Ontario had been 30-0-0 when leading after forty minutes.
The Gulls out-shot the Reign 43-19 on a night when Ontario rested several veterans, including all-AHL goaltender Peter Budaj. The understudy stepped in just like the star in a Broadway play, as Michael Houser stopped 40-of-43 shots and turned aside several of San Diego's top scoring chances.
Ontario netted first, when amateur tryout (ATO) rookie Matt Schmalz hustled to capture a puck loose behind the net of San Diego goalie Matt Hackett, sliding the puck out into the low slot where Joel Lowry skated in to roof home the night's first goal at 12:49 of the first.
The speed and skill of all-AHL defenseman and rookie Brandon Montour was on display later in the first period, as he accelerated to join a rush on right wing, perfectly sliding a pass from the far wall to the back post, where Tropp was waiting to poke home his sixteenth goal of the season. It was Montour's 45th assist of the year, tops on the club and among AHL defensemen.
The Reign regained the lead on a steal down low, with Joel Lowry this time returning the favor and assisting on Matt Schmalz's first professional goal, giving Ontario a 2-1 lead at 9:08 of the second period.
The lead held until a series of physical confrontations at 9:24 of the third period put both teams on edge and brought the crowd into full throat.
With the crowd rarely sitting down the rest of the game, San Diego intensified their efforts, leading to the comeback win. McGrattan's ninth goal of the year, picking out the space over the left shoulder of Houser at 15:14, completed the descent into frenzied celebration.
The Gulls head into the Calder Cup Playoffs with 39 wins and 84 points, a final points percentage of .618, second place in the AHL Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference. Game One of the opening round best-of-five series against the Texas Stars is scheduled for Thursday, April 21 at Cedar Park Center in Texas.
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American Hockey League Stories from April 17, 2016
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- San Jose Barracuda Announce Schedule for Pacific Division Semifinals vs. Ontario Reign - San Jose Barracuda
- Stupendous Second-Season Swan Song Socks Syracuse - Lehigh Valley Phantoms
- Heat Finish Inaugural Season as a .500 Hockey Club - Stockton Heat
- Bridgeport falls but finds out its playoff opponent - Bridgeport Sound Tigers
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- SJ Barracuda Clinch Playoff Spot in Final Game of the Season in Fine Fashion - San Jose Barracuda
- Hershey's Chris Bourque, Providence's Frank Vatrano Win AHL Scoring Races - AHL
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- Pirates to Face Hershey Bears in Division Semifinals - Portland Pirates
- Sound Tigers to Meet Marlies in Round One - Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Toronto Marlies Set to Face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoff - Toronto Marlies
- Bears to Face Pirates in Division Semifinal - Hershey Bears
- First-Round Schedules Announced for 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs - AHL
- Reign Battle San Jose in Opening Round of 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs - Ontario Reign
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- B-Sens Finish Season on a High Note - Binghamton Senators
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- Minnesota Wild Recalls Mike Reilly - Iowa Wild
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- Agostino's Four Points Power Heat to Regulation Win over San Jose on Military Appreciation Night - Stockton Heat
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- Gulls Rally Past Ontario 3-2 in Regular Season Finale - San Diego Gulls
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