AN DIEGO - The Grand Rapids Griffins concluded their season-opening trip to California with a 4-2 defeat to the San Diego Gulls in front of a sold-out crowd of 12,920 on Saturday at Valley View Casino Center.
Nick Ritchie scored two goals, including the game-winner in his professional debut, while John Gibson stopped 32 of 34 shots to earn the win for San Diego (1-0-0-0).
Ritchie, the tenth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, opened the scoring on the power play with 4:59 remaining in the opening period. After a Gulls dump-in ricocheted off the stick of Michel Sgarbossa, Ritchie shot a bouncing puck from the left circle that went in off the right shoulder of Jared Coreau.
The Gulls controlled the play throughout the second period, doubling their advantage with 5:43 remaining in the second period. Eight seconds after Anthony Mantha was penalized for hooking, Brandon Montour scored on a one-timer from the right point set up by Shane O'Brien.
The Griffins (0-2-0-0) ended their goal drought just 1:42 into the third period. Eric Tangradi cut the deficit in half when he scored on a breakaway, beating Gibson on his glove side after receiving a stretch pass from Brian Lashoff.
San Diego would reclaim their two-goal advantage 6:40 into the final frame. Lashoff fanned on a pass behind his own net, which fell right onto the stick of Nick Ritchie, who raced to the front of the goal and scored his second of the game after beating Coreau on his blocker side.
The Griffins would once again cut the deficit in half with 7:16 remaining in regulation. After Louis-Marc Aubry gained entry into the San Diego zone, he placed a drop pass to Colin Campbell, whose wrist shot from the right circle beat Gibson at his far post.
Despite outshooting San Diego 13-6 in the final period, the Griffins were not able to complete the comeback. After pulling Coreau for an extra skater, Antoine Laganiere put the game beyond doubt when he scored on an empty net with 30 seconds remaining.
Coreau stopped 26 of 29 shots he faced. San Diego went two for five on the power play, while the Griffins scored once on three opportunities.
The Griffins will begin the home portion of their schedule against the San Antonio Rampage on Oct. 16-17 at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.
Three Stars: 1. SD Ritchie (two goals); 2. SD Theodore (assist); 3. SD Montour (goal)