San Diego Gulls: Why Ontario Reign are good measuring stick

San Diego Gulls

Credit: San Diego Gulls

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San Diego Gulls
Credit: San Diego Gulls

The undefeated San Diego Gulls renew their rivalry with Ontario on Wednesday night. The Reign presents a much greater challenge than Bakersfield.

By all accounts, the San Diego Gulls could not have asked for a better start to the 2021 season. Trailing 1-0 in both games against the Bakersfield Condors over the weekend, Kevin Dineen’s club found a way to claw back and put up four goals in both contests. Newcomers in Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale made their mark, with the former earning AHL Player of the Week honors for his efforts in the two-game series.

With three days off between games, the Gulls should be prepared for an all-out battle against the Ontario Reign. Respectively, of course, Bakersfield has minimal NHL talent on their roster, with most of Edmonton’s top-tier talent at the NHL level or playing over in Europe.

The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler recently ranked all 31 team’s prospect pool, with Edmonton’s coming in at number 19. Only Tyler Benson (#7), Ryan McLeod (#9), Olivier Rodrigue (#12), and Cooper Marody (unranked) are with the Condors this season. To put it mildly, the Gulls were expected to take both games against Bakersfield, and that’s exactly how it played out.

On Wednesday, San Diego will play their rivals to the north in the Ontario Reign, who present a different animal. Unlike Bakersfield, the majority of the LA Kings prospect pool is at the AHL level. Wheeler ranked the Kings’ prospect pool #1 overall. The Reign lost their first two games to the Henderson Silver Knights, but the Gulls would be foolish to take the Reign lightly based on their record.

The Reign boast 2020 second-overall pick Quinton Byfield (#1), Alex Turcotte (#2), Arthur Kaliyev (#3), Tyler Madden (#5), Samuel Fagemo (#7), Tobias Bjornfot (#8), Rasmus Kupari (#9), and Akil Thomas (#10) to round out the big names on their roster.

Of course, the Gulls have Zegras and Chase De Leo, who are currently tied for first and second place in points among AHL skaters, respectively. San Diego goalie Lukas Dostal is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Ducks’ farm system, and through two games, he sits at number seven among AHL goalies with a 2.00 GAA and .945 SV%.

Wednesday’s matchup is only a one-game series between these two clubs, and they won’t meet again until March 3 for another one-game contest. However, toward the end of March and the early part of April, the Gulls and Reign will see each other more than each team would like.

Expect a physical matchup, as these clubs have been known to get into quite a few scrums over the years. The Gulls greatly dislike the Reign, and the feeling goes both ways. Emotions will have to be held somewhat in check as a major penalty could have a significant swing in either team’s momentum.

Puck drops at 7 PM from Fivepoint Arena in Irvine.

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