Gulls Look to Stop the Reign

San Diego can knock Ontario out of the playoffs with a Monday night win

After their practice on Sunday, Gulls defenseman Jeff Schultz was wearing a shirt that read “Stay Classy San Diego.” He was paying homage to the movie Anchorman but could also serve as a reminder to his team for Monday night’s Calder Cup Playoffs game in Ontario.

If Game 4 is anything like the first three there will be more than a few gloves dropped

“The last couple of years a rivalry has been started,” said Schultz. “It’s a battle of who wants to be the best?”

And what is also quite obvious is the fact these teams really can’t stand one another.

“Even preseason games against them are intense and it’s not going to change any time soon,” said defenseman Jaycob Megna. “It’s been like that for the last two years.”

Perhaps this is a situation where familiarity breeds contempt. Since San Diego joined the American Hockey League for the 2015-16 season these division opponents have played a lot: 32 times in two years including playoffs. When you see a team that often guys can't help but get chippy with one another.

“There’s that contempt for the other team,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “There are a lot of not only team battles going on but individual battles and you want to walk that line of being intense and competing hard but not going over the line and taking penalties because there’s no worse feeling in sports than sitting in the penalty box and watching your team take that puck out of your net because of your penalty.”

In Game 3, a 3-1 Gulls win at Valley View Casino Center, San Diego took seven penalties … three of them on forward Scott Sabourin for roughing.

“We got ourselves in to some penalty trouble last game,” said Eakins. “I thought our emotions got away from us a little bit. We’ve talked to the individuals about that and we’re hoping and we’re confident that we’re going to have calmer heads.”

During the regular season the Reign had the 3rd-best power play in the AHL. Ontario is just 1-for-10 with a man advantage in this series but Eakins would rather not give them a chance to get that special unit working.

“Every moment is a critical moment when you’re playing a team like this. It might not be the last one it might be the first one or the 11th minute of the 2nd period. You never know when that critical moment is coming and suddenly it arrives and you have to be ready to handle it one way or the other.”

The Gulls, by the way, are 17-15 in their brief yet pugilistic history against Ontario. Getting an 18th win on Monday would be the most satisfying one yet since it would knock their rivals out of the playoffs. For San Diego sports fans it would be nice to get the better of Los Angeles right about now.

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