ONTARIO, Calif. – Since their move to California, the Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls have been bitter rivals. Most games involving the two teams consist of hard-hitting, various after whistle scrums and fights.
A couple of weeks ago, neither team seemed interested in the other, despite both looking to secure a playoff spot.
This weekend was a completely different story.
The series began Friday night in Ontario with a slashing penalty on the Gulls just 58 seconds into the game. Brett Sutter took advantage of the power play to put the Reign up 1-0. Another slashing penalty later in the period gave the Reign their second power play. This time, it was Jonny Brodzinski (returned earlier in the day from LA) who made the Gulls pay just after the man advantage had ended.
The second period devolved into various cheap shots and penalties, eventually spawning a fight between Steve Olesky and Austin Wagner. Corey Tropp brought the Gulls within one on San Diego’s first power play of the night, but Matt Luff re-established the two-goal lead eight minutes later.
The third period saw more unpleasantries, various fights, roughing, and misconducts. Kalle Kossila brought the Gulls back within one just one minute in, but Cal Petersen was able to hang on for the Reign win, clinching a playoff spot for Ontario.
Saturday night, Jonny Brodzinski was back in LA, playing with the Kings at Staples Center. The Reign were set in a playoff spot and comfortably in second place, while the Gulls were clinging to fourth place and looking to clinch their own playoff spot.
The first period began with the Gulls playing desperate hockey while the Reign seemed ready to coast. Ontario was outshot 10-1 in the first few minutes, surrendering another power-play goal early on to Corey Tropp. The Reign recovered after Matt Moulson tied the game midway through the period. Once the Reign were engaged, the bad blood came back with vengeance.
Kalle Kossila put the Gulls up 2-1 two minutes into the second on the power play. Kevin Roy made it 3-1 six minutes later. In the meantime, the two teams posted 22 minutes of penalties.
Six minutes into the third, they added another 25 minutes of penalties, another fight and another misconduct. Ontario was unable to close the gap, however, until it was too late. Sean Walker brought them within one with 29 seconds left, but the Gulls ultimately took the game 3-2.
The Good: Both teams managed to recover from their malaise of the previous games in what is looking like a first-round playoff preview.
The Bad: The Reign surrendered four power-play goals in two games. While the gulls do have the top power play in the league, the Reign’s penalty kill needs to find a way to shut it down.
The Ugly: The fight between Steve Olesky and Austin Wagner resulted ended with Wagner’s helmet flying off and Wagner bleeding on the ice. He was not on the roster for Saturday’s game, removing another scorer from the Reign roster and raising concerns going into the playoffs.