Having spent most of February and the beginning of March at home, the Reign hit the road this past weekend, traveling cross-country to North Carolina to take on the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers are trying to recover from a rough patch where they fell out of playoff contention, at one point reaching the bottom of the division. They are now in a neck and neck race with the Iowa Wild for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference (despite being on the East Coast…Geography!!)
The Reign were coming out of a mediocre homestand that neither helped nor hurt their hold in third place in the Pacific Division.
The Checkers played like every point counted. The Reign seemed to forget the first two periods of each game counted. Guilty of the worst turnovers, sloppy play and running around on the ice, the Reign did not look like a playoff team until the third period of each game.
In both games, a late push from Ontario tied the games late. On Friday night, a turnover at the blueline led to a Charlotte goal and cost the Reign the game. On Saturday night, they managed to push to overtime, but couldn’t hold on for the two points.
With the two wins, Charlotte has drawn within four points of the Wild. The Reign, meanwhile, now have cause to be concerned. Above them in the division, the Barracuda and Gulls continue to win, opening up a large gap in the standings. The Barracuda have gone 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 while the Gulls have gone 8-1-1-0.
Nipping at their heels, the Bakersfield Condors, who also won this weekend. The Condors have put together a record of 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 to push into a playoff spot. Also putting together a record of 7-3-0-0 are the Stockton Heat. Currently out of the playoffs in fifth place, the Heat are still in the race.
The Central Division’s standings could also become a factor if Charlotte puts together a good enough winning percentage to overtake fourth place in the Pacific and the Reign continue to lose.
The Reign have gone 3-5-2-0 in their last 10, the worst record of all of the playoff teams in the league. Their play in Charlotte shows a team no longer playing in sync. The first Checker goal on Saturday night came when the entire Reign forward line charged up to their blueline to defend one Checker. The puck was sent below them and as they turned to follow it, they got in each other’s way, effectively taking three players out of the play. This left Kris Newbury wide open to put the Checkers on the board first. While only one example, it is indicative of how the Reign play at least one period each night. Whether giving the opposing team the lead or losing their own, it has been costing them games.
Elsewhere in the Conference – The Charlotte Checkers are taking on the Iowa Wild tonight with a lot on the line. If the Checkers win, they’ll be within two points of a playoff spot. If the Wild win, they’ve gained breathing room to hold onto fourth place. The Chicago Wolves are taking on the Cleveland Monsters with an eye on first place in the Central Division. The Tucson Roadrunners are in San Antonio tonight for a game that could bring the Roadrunners up to sixth in the Pacific.