ONTARIO, CA – After a quick jaunt out to the east coast to drop two games to the surging Charlotte Checkers, the Reign were back at home this weekend to take on the San Antonio Rampage. San Antonio is in the midst of another disappointing year, sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Division, well out of a playoff spot.
The Reign rolled into Friday night’s game with a determination to not let the Rampage play with the puck. After the first period, the Reign had thrown 13 shots at Joe Cannata (former ECHL Reign goalie) while allowing the Rampage only four shots. Beyond the shot total, the Reign dominated the Rampage in every way. The four shots were spaced out, low percentage chances that were taken away and cleared immediately. It took a puck that wiggled out of Cannata’s equipment to trickled its way toward the goal for the Reign to get their first goal. Michael Mersch was in his usual spot in front of the net and managed to give the puck some extra encouragement to cross the goal line, putting the Reign up 1-0 2:30 into the second half. Quentin Shore put the Reign up 2-0 nine minutes later with another puck that squeaked out from between Cannata’s pads to amble its way into the net. The best goal for the Reign came off of a 2-on-1 breakaway during the penalty kill. Mersch came up ice with Andrew Crescenzi, took a look, then fired the puck right over Cannata’s shoulder.
Only a minute later, however, Felix Girard threw a point shot past Jack Campbell on the power play to drag the Rampage back within 2. Midway through the third period, Rocco Grimaldi fired a great shot of his own past Campbell and the Rampage were within one. Cannata was pulled with two minutes left as the Rampage made a final push to tie the game, but the Reign held them off to win 3-2.
The Rampage came out Saturday night determined to make up for their poor performance on Friday. The Reign were up to the challenge and got on the board first again. After Spencer Martin denied his shot from the slot, Crescenzi hung around the front of the net & put home the rebound from a Sean Backman shot.
The Rampage gave another push to start the second, but Campbell was on his game as well & kept them scoreless. Just under six minutes in, Michael Mersch gave the Reign the two-goal lead with his third of the weekend.
Shortly thereafter, Spencer Martin caught a Backman shot in his glove. Just as the whistle sounded, Brett Sutter skated by & tapped the glove trying to dislodge the puck. Martin, already unhappy that the Reign had not been called for knocking his mask off earlier, went after Sutter, landing punches with his blocker while his teammates tried to engage Sutter. Play resumed with the Reign on the penalty kill, but the Rampage were still unhappy. During their power play, A.J. Greer skated past Campbell & hooked his skates out from under him, earning his own penalty. For the rest of the period, both teams bumped, fell on & otherwise went after the opposing netminder.
Things calmed back down in the third, but the Rampage were still unable to put anything past Campbell, who picked up his fourth shutout of the season.
Impressive: Jack Campbell has continued to steadily improve since taking over the net for the Reign. He now has 3 shutouts in the past month, has climbed into the top 20 in save percentage and goals against average and leads the league in wins. Michael Mersch had a great weekend, picking up three goals and coming very close to a fourth. He stepped into the void left by Jonny Brodzinski’s call-up, reminding everyone that he was top on the prospect list until his injury.
Not So Much: Teddy Purcell seemed to be skating in jello for much of the weekend. While he managed to pick up an assist, there were a few times where he just seemed uninterested in the game.
Elsewhere in the Division: The Condors and the Gulls played a home and home series, with the Condors taking both games to break the Gulls win streak. Right behind the Condors in the standings, the Heat were in Texas to take on the Stars. They won the first game 5-4, but lost in the shoot-out on Saturday. The loss clinched a playoff spot for the Gulls, who still trail the Barracuda in the standings. The top two Pacific teams met on Wednesday, with the Gulls downing the Barracuda 5-1. San Jose took Friday night off, then traveled to Tucson to take on the Roadrunners. The Barracuda won that game 5-2, Tucson took the Sunday tilt by the score of 5-4.