Keegan Lowe stuns Reign with late goal, San Diego Gulls win 2-1

San Diego Gulls

Credit: San Diego Gulls

San Diego Gulls
Credit: San Diego Gulls

The San Diego Gulls used a significant third period and some late heroics to top their rival Ontario Reign 2-1 on Wednesday night.

1st Period

Quite the opposite from the two-game series against Bakersfield, the San Diego Gulls, didn’t look sharp in the opening minutes against the Ontario Reign. It was expected with Ontario having a significantly better roster than Bakersfield. The visiting Reign were called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty just 1:55 into the game, but the Gulls could do nothing with the man advantage.

Ontario applied a heavy forecheck and killed off the penalty with ease. The visitors brought the intensity San Diego has yet to see on the young season, impacting the Gulls’ passes and overall timing. Ontario registered 13 shots to San Diego’s seven in the first period, with Trevor Zegras getting the best scoring chance with just over seven minutes remaining in the opening frame.

Overall, it was a relatively uneventful first period as both clubs looked to see who blinked first. That said, Gulls netminder Lukas Dostal continued his stellar play thus far, making a couple of key stops to keep Ontario off the board.

2nd Period

The middle frame opened up similar to the first. Ontario’s Quinton Byfield was called for a two-minute slashing penalty just 47 seconds into the second period. Still, the Reign kept the pressure, with captain Brett Sutter firing a shorthanded goal past Dostal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

After Sutter’s goal, it was the battle of big-time saves by both goalies. Dostal made 26-of-27 saves through two periods, stopping a couple of point-blank shots from the Ontario Reign. Conversely, Matt Villalta made an unbelievable stop on Brayden Tracey in what looked like a wide-open net.

Seconds later, the 21-year-old made another outstanding save on Trevor Carrick, who was driving to the net and tried to sneak a backhanded shot into the back of the net. But Villalta sent the puck away with the edge of his skate, deflecting just wide of the post in the process.

In the second half of the period, the Gulls intensity picked up, getting several good looks on the net but failed to get one past Villalta. At the end of two periods, Ontario led the way with 27 shots on goal to San Diego’s 16.

3rd Period

In what felt like a continuous penalty kill, including a 5-on-3 advantage for Ontario, the tide shifted in the Gulls’ favor shortly after Josh Mahura‘s interference penalty was killed off. Mahura collected a puck at mid-ice that cleared the Gulls’ defensive zone and was all alone against Villalta. The 22-year-old raced towards the net, lifting a shot to the back of the net and tying the game at one goal apiece.

Mahura’s goal provided a much-needed boost for the Gulls while flustering the Reign in the process, who committed back-to-back penalties. San Diego had several good scoring opportunities in the combined four minutes of penalty time but to no avail. And keeping on-theme, the Gulls returned the favor with penalties just 39 seconds apart, giving Ontario a 5-on-3 for 1:22.

And with the game trending towards overtime, defenseman Keegan Lowe wouldn’t let the game go beyond regulation, burying a rebound past Villalta with 4.7 seconds remaining.

The Gulls didn’t play particularly well on Wednesday night, but they came away with the 2-1 victory and are 3-0-0 on the season. San Diego will host Colorado for a two-game set this weekend.

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