San Diego Gulls play Ontario
Action on the ice Saturday night in Ontario. Courtesy San Diego Gulls

The San Diego Gulls played what coach Kevin Dineen said was their “best game” of the young season in a 3-2 loss to the Ontario Reign Saturday evening in Ontario but remained as the American Hockey League‘s lone winless team.

“The results are very hollow at the end of it, but our special teams were really sharp,” said Dineen, who is in his first season as Gulls coach. “At the end of it, you can walk out and feel good about the effort, but we are looking at results right now and that’s where the frustration lies. Not with the coaching staff, but with the players and our fan base.

“It’s a whole package. We’ve dug ourselves a pretty good little hole, but we feel like over the course of this weekend, we’ve found a formula that can work for this team. That is really amping up our compete level with a strong dose of a good structure. We feel like good things will fall.”

The Gulls (0-6-0-0) killed all five of Ontario’s power plays, including a one-minute, 34-second two-man advantage midway through the third period with the score tied. They scored on one of four power plays, with defenseman Chris Wideman scoring his second power-play goal in two games.

Wideman “is obviously finding his groove with his shot at the point, so it’s always a good idea to give him the puck right now,”  Dineen said.

The Gulls trailed 59 seconds into the game on Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s goal, twice rallied to tie the score, but allowed the game-winner with four minutes, 50 seconds to play when Matt Luff put a shot from the left faceoff circle past Anthony Stolarz for his third goal of the season.

Luff also scored in the Reign’s 6-2 victory over the Gulls Friday at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

Dineen pulled Stolarz with about 90 seconds to play. However, the Gulls were only able to take one shot with the extra attacker, a shot by Wideman with 36 seconds left which was turned away by Cal Petersen.

“We were so close,” Gulls center Antoine Morand said. “We keep making the same mistakes that cost us the game. It’s hard to stay positive, but we just have to grind and make sure we find our way to the victory. I think it was a good step forward tonight and we will keep building on the good things and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.”

The Gulls were outshot, 36-32, including 12-5 in the third period, before a crowd at Toyota Arena announced at 8,123.

Wideman scored on a slap shot 12:27 into the first period.

Ontario (6-1-1-0), the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate regained the lead on defenseman Tobias Bjornfot’s goal 7:32 into the second period on a wrist shot.

The Gulls re-tied the score 1:52 later on the first goal of Morand’s five-game professional career. Morand was a second-round choice by the Gulls parent team, the Anaheim Ducks, in the 2017 NHL draft, the 60th overall selection.

Andrew Poturalski assisted on both Gulls goals.

Stolarz (0-4-0-0) made 33 saves. Petersen (6-1-1-0) made 30 saves, including stopping Daniel Sprong on a first-period breakaway.

Gulls defenseman Scott Moldenhauer engaged in his first fight of the season and the team’s fourth, brawling with Reign defenseman Chaz Reddekopp 2:14 into the second period. Both players received five-minute major penalties.

The Gulls are the league’s lowest-scoring team with 10 goals.

“We’re going to have to put pucks to the net with bodies there,” Dineen said.

The Gulls will resume play Friday, playing host to the Colorado Eagles, the Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

— City News Service

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