In the Battle of Southern California, the two teams are so evenly matched that no one can predict the outcome of any game, much less the series. In our preview, we noted that the teams had played 12 games and both had records of 6-4-1-1. Not noted were that the majority of the games were decided by one goal.
That trend continued this weekend as the Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls opened up their first round series. Being located close enough to each other, the series is alternating venues by game, starting in San Diego Friday night then moving to Ontario.
Friday night saw the suddenly lethal duo of Jonny Brodzinski and Adrian Kempe open the scoring in first. A second period goal from T.J. Hensick gave the Reign the two-goal lead, but the Gulls erased that with two quick goals midway through the period. Just when everyone thought it was going to go to overtime, Brodzinski and Kempe teamed up again to give the Reign the 3-2 win.
Saturday night, it was the Gulls who struck first. An early power play goal was followed up 30 seconds later by another goal. The 2-0 lead lasted until 3:30 into the second period, when Mike Amadio managed to put one past Enroth. But that was it for scoring. Neither team could break through again, and the Gulls evened the series at one.
The Difference, Game One: The difference in game one was an opportunistic goal by a forward line that hadn’t mentally left for the locker room to prepare for overtime. When many players would be hanging around, waiting for the whistle, Brodzinski and Kempe were still trying to win the game, and they did. What could have ruined it was the mental vacation midway through the second that allowed the shorthanded Gulls goal, tying the game.
The Difference, Game Two: Another mental lapse, this one by both Matt Roy and Jack Campbell, to give up the second goal so soon after the first. Both seemed to lose focus at the same time, and the puck was in the net.
Looking Forward: The Reign will need to figure out a way to avoid these lapses in concentration (there were many more in Game Two that could have ended up in the back of the net) and hope that the Ducks recall some of the Gulls players for Round Two. The Gulls need to keep frustrating the Reign, pushing them to lose focus and discipline.
Game Three is Friday, April 28th in San Diego at 7:00pm Pacific Time.