SAN DIEGO, CA – It was predicted to be a close, hard fought game between two bitter rivals. The winner would move on and the loser’s season would be over. The series had been close, a goaltending showdown with one mistake costing an entire game. Game five would be no different.
Then Jack Campbell didn’t skate in warm-ups. He wasn’t even dressed. Jeff Zatkoff was set to mind the net for the Reign with Jack Flynn as his back-up. Speculation flew as many remembering Campbell seeming slow to get up and favoring his right leg after a save in the first the night before. But Zatkoff had shown moments of brilliance and should be able to handle the critical game.
Disaster struck again as Zatkoff went down in warm-ups and had to be helped off the ice. The hearts of the Reign faithful collectively stopped.
Flynn was called upon to anchor the Reign in the deciding game after having not been in a game in weeks. Flynn looked good for nine minutes of play. Three goals on three shots three minutes later, and Campbell was somehow dressed and on the ice.
But the damage had been done.
In a series this close, a three-goal deficit was too much to overcome.
Brett Sutter did manage to make sure it wasn’t a shut-out, but the Reign were eliminated from the playoffs in the space of 180 seconds.
Up north, the San Jose Barracuda and Stockton Heat were fighting for their playoff lives as well in a much closer game. Stockton broke the 0-0 tie mid-way through the second period, but the Barracuda were able to come back in the third to force overtime. Nine minutes into overtime, Ryan Carpenter scored the game and series winning goal to send the Heat home.
The Gulls and Barracuda will now meet in the second round in the battle of the Sans, which gets going Friday night in San Jose.