The Gulls open the 2021-22 season tonight against Reign In Ontario


October 16, 2021

Through AJ Manderichio/

Seagull hockey is back.

San Diego opens its 2021-22 season tonight in Ontario, facing rival Reign at Toyota Arena (6 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network). San Diego is 4-2 in the opening games of the season, including the Gulls’ first-ever AHL game on Oct. 10, 2015, against Grand Rapids (4-2 win). The Gulls also claimed victories on October 14, 2016 against Tucson (win 5-3), on October 7, 2017 in Tucson (win 7-6) and on February 5, 2021 against Bakersfield (win 4-1).

“Against Ontario, it’s always good games,” said Gulls defenseman Simon Benoit. “We’re so close and over the years we’ve had some good physical games and a fight every night. Throughout the year, we build up a few rivalries. Things are happening. I think it’s just a question of courage and passion on the ice.

San Diego and Ontario open a 12-game regular season streak tonight. In 2020-21, the Gulls posted a 7-3-0-0 record against the Reign, winning the seasonal series for the third time in the past four seasons. San Diego is 40-22-3-2 against Ontario in the regular season, including 21-10-0-2 on the road. The Gulls have collected points in 13 of their last 17 games against Ontario (11-4-2-0).

San Diego’s season opener has 25 players, including 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. It consists of seven Anaheim Draft caps, including Jack Badini (91st overall in 2017), Lukas Dostal (85th overall in 2018), Hunter Drew (178th overall in 2018), Olle Eriksson Ek (153rd overall in 2018). in 2017), Jacob Larsson (27th overall in 2015), Jacob Perreault (27th overall in 2020) and Brayden Tracey (29th overall in 2019).

Eriksson Ek is expected to debut for San Diego. The Swedish goalie was 8-6-1 with a 3.14 GAA and .901 SV percentage in 15 games for the Gulls last season. Highlights from last season included stopping 39 of 41 shots for his first career AHL victory in his first game to become the second youngest goaltender to win a game for San Diego (21 , 263 days), behind Lukas Dostal (20 years, 233 days), on March 6 against San José. He also became the first Gulls rookie goaltender to earn an assist, marking the 11th goaltending assist in team history on May 14 at Colorado.

Against the reign, Eriksson Ek is 1-2-0. He faced them in Game 1 of the list of two exhibition games between Ontario and San Diego, stopping 26 of 28 shots in a 4-2 victory.

Sam Carrick returns to captain the Gulls for a third consecutive season. In 27 games with San Diego last season, the Markham, Ont. Native recorded 14-10 = 24 points with a rating of +5 and 19 PIM. He reached several milestones, including his 300th AHL point (March 24 at Ontario) and his 200th AHL game (February 27 at Henderson), becoming the third player in Gulls history to reach that milestone.

Carrick enters the 2021-22 season as the organizations’ all-time leading scorer (85-95 = 180).

Vinni Lettieri will be the Gulls for his second season in San Diego. The Excelsior, Minnesota native recorded 14-12 = 26 points in 22 games last season and placed sixth in the AHL in points per game (1.18, min. 15 games played). He also finished the regular season tied for eighth in goals (14).

Lettieri led all skaters in preseason points, registering 2-2 = 4 overall round-trip with Ontario.

Six players will make their Gulls debut tonight – forwards Alekander Volkov, Morgan Adams-Moisan, Vincent Marleau, Danny O’Regan and Buddy Robinson and defensemen Brogan Rafferty. Goalkeeper Francis Marotte will support Eriksson Ek, who does not register as an official appearance.

The roster is filled to the brim with talent and potential, but San Diego head coach Joel Bouchard knows names don’t mean success will be easy.

“The list is just a piece of paper for me,” he explained. “The paper doesn’t mean anything. It all depends on what is happening on the ice. You can have the best roster on paper, but if the guys aren’t growing together, they’re not on the same page, it means absolutely nothing. We have good players, players we love, which is fun. Players knocking on the front door of the NHL. Some of them played good minutes and played really well in the AHL, which is good news. That being said, there is one place you enjoy and that is on the ice. Let’s see how we’re doing over the next few weeks.

Ontario is once again led by captain Brett Sutter, who returns to captain the Reign for a fifth consecutive season. The Los Angeles Kings-backed organization has a roster filled with recognizable prospects, including first-round players Alex Turcotte (drafted by Los Angeles in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft) and Rasmus. Kupari (drafted by Los Angeles in the first round (20th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft).

Goalkeeper Garret Sparks joins established Ontario goaltenders Matthew Villalta and Jacob Ingham. The former Toronto Maple Leafs seventh-round pick is 93-52-9 with an average of 2.28 and 0.923 SV% in eight AHL seasons with the Toronto Marlies, Chicago Wolves and the Stockton Heat.

San Diego will open its home schedule on Friday, Oct. 22 against the Stockton Heat.


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