by Craig Elsten

ONTARIO, CA — Christian Gutierrez scored twice and Boris Pardo stopped 10 of 12 shots in net, as the San Diego Sockers ran away from the Ontario Fury 7-3 on Friday night at Toyota Arena in the opening match of the 2021 Ron Newman Cup Finals. The Sockers lead the best-of-three series 1-0, with Game Two set for Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

Pardo, who required medical attention for a sore back and left the match with 10:47 remaining, was named Man of the Match for his efforts, including seven first-half saves. He was treated midway through the second quarter and required a second look from the trainers in the fourth, which necessitated his exit from the match. William Vanzela closed the game in goal and stopped two of three shots against.

Meanwhile, “Golden Gutierrez” continued his rampage through the Ron Newman Cup Finals. Held to two goals in the regular season, Christian netted his fourth and fifth of the playoffs against Ontario. Playing the position of defensive runner, Gutierrez blocked five shots, nonetheless has found his offensive rhythm.

“Right now I’m defense for when our forwards lose the ball,” said Gutierrez, “It’s my job to defend, and I feel great where I’m playing. As long as I can help the team, that’s what’s important.” 

The meeting of two Southern California indoor rivals in a national final was enhanced by the attendance of 1,500 fans inside Toyota Arena, the first indoor event with fans held in San Bernadino County since 2020. The result put San Diego back in charge in the head-to-head series, which had previously seen Ontario win three straight. 

San Diego took control early against the Fury, netting three goals in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead. Team captain Kraig Chiles opened the scoring with a turnaround toe-poke from the right-wing, beating Ontario keeper Claysson de Lima with a low shot inside the left post for a 1-0 lead at 2:44. Moments later, a steal at midfield triggered a 2-v-2 break into the Ontario zone. Forward Tavoy Morgan’s pass found Brandon Escoto at a sharp angle outside right post, who delicately floated the ball back across the grain and into the net at 5:44. Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz then electrified the San Diegans in attendance with a long goal into the upper V at 7:02 of the first for a 3-0 lead, an advantage the Sockers held into the quarter break. 

The Fury put their best effort of the match forward in the second quarter, out-shooting the Sockers 12-3 and holding possession for most of the entire frame. Thiago Goncalves shot from the range at 7:34 and found the back of the net, trimming the lead to 3-1. Ontario maintained furious pressure, but the bottom fell out in the closing moments of the quarter. A San Diego counter-attack wove its way through midfield, with Marcio Leite setting up a 2-v-1 in the attacking zone. Guerrero Pino and Tavoy Morgan played a perfect 1-2, with Pino’s pass across the face of goal to Morgan being returned to him for a simple header goal into an empty net. The Sockers led 4-1 at halftime. 

The third quarter began with an emphatic statement from a former Fury. Leonardo de Oliveira, traded to San Diego two seasons ago, found room in midfield, and turned to attack the goal. His shot from over 40 feet outside of goal smashed off the back-right post, which shivered at the force of the strike. Leo’s second goal of the playoffs made it 5-1 at 2:25 of the frame. 

Ontario looked to get back in the match with a power play late in the third quarter, but instead saw Christian Gutierrez work hard to win a short-handed free kick in the Fury zone. Catching the defense by surprise, Gutierrez put his laces into the restart and slotted it inside the right post for a 6-1 edge. 

Franck Tayou scored twice for the Fury, once on the power play and once with six attackers, to bring Ontario back into the match at 6-3. Gutierrez scored an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left to end the scoring. 

The Ron Newman Cup Finals resume on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena, with Game Two set for a 3pm kickoff. One more win would bring a Ron Newman Cup back to San Diego for the first time since 2013. The Fury must win, then prevail in a mini-game Game Three, which would take place if necessary 30 minutes after the match.