In a pair of exhibition games the Gulls had no trouble beating the Reign. San Diego outscored Ontario 9-4 and looked like the much better team.
The regular season opener did not follow that script.
The Gulls dropped their first game of the year 5-2 in the Inland Empire. The Reign got the first goal of the night with 23 seconds left in the 1st period when Martin Frk slipped one by Gulls goalie Ollie Eriksson Ek.
In the 2nd period, San Diego tried to push their way back into it. They squeezed off eight shots in the first five minutes but couldn't get anything by goalie Matthew Villalta. Then the Reign snipers came out.
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Frk unleashed a 109-MPH slap shot that whistled by Eriksson Ek for a power play goal. Just 65 seconds later Jacob Moverare scored again to put Ontario up 3-0. That goal turned out to be the game-winner.
At the end of the 2nd period Jacob Perreault, at 19 years old one of hockey's top prospects, finally scored the Gulls first goal of the year to make it 3-1 and spark hope of a comeback.
They couldn't get any closer. Ontario scored on an empty net, then again on the power play to make it a 5-1 game. Vinni Lettieri scored with a few seconds left for the final tally of the night.
The Gulls get a week of practice before their highly anticipated home opener on Friday night against Stockton when they expect a sellout crowd at Pechanga Arena. It'll be the first time they've played a home game with fans in attendance since February of 2020.