San Diego Gulls players after preseason victory
San Diego Gulls players after their preseason victory in Ontario. Photo courtesy of the gulls

Blake Pietila had a hat trick as the San Diego Gulls scored the final five goals in a 5-2 victory over the Ontario Reign Thursday in Ontario in the preseason opener for both teams.

Pietila scored the Gulls first goal one minute, three seconds into the second period off an assist by Alex Dostie. Pietila tied the score at 5:52 of the second period, again off an assist by Dostie.

Pietila completed the hat trick 55 seconds into the third period off Justin Kloos’ assist.

Jack Kopacka’s unassisted goal at 17:27 of the second period proved to be the game winner.

“(Center Alex Broadhurst) made a great play on the back check and hit the puck loose,” Kopacka said. “I just looked up and saw I had room so I just kind of took off and closed my eyes.”

Corey Tropp scored the Gulls final goal 3:11 into the third period off assists by Hunter Drew and Patrick Sieloff.

Gulls goaltender Anthony Stolarz stopped 30 of 32 shots.

Both Pietila and Stolarz were making their Gulls debut.

Pietila was signed to a one-year, two-way contract by the Gulls NHL parent team, the Anaheim Ducks, after he split the 2018-19 season between the New Jersey Devils and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Devils.

Stolarz signed a two-year contract with the Ducks after playing for the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers in the NHL and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, in the 2018-19 season.

Stolarz, Kopacka, Kloos, Sieloff, Drew and Broadhurst were among the eight players the Ducks announced on Thursday were being assigned to the Gulls.

The game also marked the debut of former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen as the Gulls coach, succeeding Dallas Eakins, who was promoted in June to coach the Ducks after coaching the Gulls throughout their first four seasons in the AHL.

Ontario opened the scoring at 7:03 of the first period on a goal by Matt Luff off assists by Lance Bouma and Brett Sutter, a son of former Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who guided the team to the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

The Reign, the Kings AHL affiliate, increased their lead to 2-0 13:14 into the first period on Olivier Galipeau’s goal off assists by Joseph Garreffa and Max Gottlieb.

The Gulls led in shots, 36-32, thanks to a 16-8 advantage in the third period.

“The ice was bad, but both teams were playing on it, but it was tough to move the puck around,” Pietila said. “Once we simplified things, everything kind of fell into place.”

Cole Kehler started in goal for Ontario, allowing two goals and making 11 saves before being replaced midway through the second period by Matthew Villalta, who allowed three goals and made 20 saves.

Both teams were scoreless on three power-play opportunities.

There were two fights. Gulls left wing Luke Gazdic and Reign forward Jacob Doty drew five-minute major penalties for their fight at 13:14 of the first period. Gulls forward Conor Riley and Ontario forward Matt Boudens drew major penalties for their fight at 15:33 of the second period.

The game was the Reign’s annual “Cool School” game which began 10:09 a.m., with student tickets priced at $10 each and chaperones admitted free. The attendance count at Toyota Arena was not announced.

“It was pretty loud in there at some points, especially when the Fortnite dances were going,” said Ontario defenseman Markus Phillips, who added that he was “singing along to the `Frozen’ song.”

The Gulls and Reign will conclude preseason play Monday at Honda Center, with admission and parking free. Tickets and information are available at www.SanDiegoGulls.com/HondaCenter.

The Gulls will begin the regular season Oct. 4 at Bakersfield and play their home opener Oct. 18 against Stockton at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.