CEDAR PARK, TX — The boys in black took their first trip to Texas this season over the weekend. Waiting for them there were the standings rivals Rampage and offensive powerhouse Stars.
The Reign had welcomed the Rampage into their barn earlier this year for two contests, both of which the Reign lost in overtime. Their first two losses of the season.
Friday night in San Antonio, the Reign jumped out to an early 1-0 lead which they pushed to 2-0 by the middle of the first period. Both goals came from the unlikely combination of Horvat, Ebert and Sabourin with Horvat & Sabourin scoring the goals. A powerplay goal in the second from Sean Backman made it 3-0 and the Reign looked ready to dispatch their rivals in their own house.
The Rampage weren’t ready to call it a night, however, and managed to make it 3-1 at the end of the second. A power play goal of their own 5 minutes into the third brought them within one. The Reign clung to their one goal lead for most of the third period, but gave up another power play with only 2:30 remaining. The Rampage capitalized to tie the game with only 90 seconds remaining and the teams went to overtime again.
Mersch played the part of overtime hero, potting his first goal in a few games just 21 seconds into overtime & sealing the Reign’s first win over the Rampage.
The next night became bizarro night in Cedar Park. The Reign brought their league leading defense to take on the Star’s powerful offense for the first time this season. The Reign are not noted for their offense (near the bottom of the league), but jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead that chased starting netminder, John Muse, just 4 minutes in. The Stars responded with scoring two goals in 2:30 to tie the game. A fire was lit on the Reign bench and they came back with two goals of their own three minutes later. The teams closed the first period 4-2 mainly because they ran out of time to score more goals.
Texas pulled within one 53 seconds into the second period, but the Reign responded with two more goals in 25 seconds to take a 6-3 lead. Texas pulled within two mid-way through the second, and that where the score would stay for the rest of the period.
Another early goal in the third brought the Stars back with within one goal and the push began. Again. The effort paid off with Greg Rallo’s second of the night to tie the game at 6 (!!). The game looked to be headed to overtime until Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored his second of the night to make it 7-6 Reign.
The Stars went 2 for 7 on the power play, making it four goals surrendered on the power play in two nights for the Reign’s celebrated penalty kill. The Stars also outshot the Reign 37-32, despite the Reign being at the top of the league defensively. Finally, Ray Emery’s SV% was 0.838 for the game. Something well out of character for the league’s best goaltending duo.
Maybe it’s something in the water.
Impressive:Michael Mersch was in a slump until he found Texas. He tallied three goals in two games to jump up to 9 for the year.
Kurtis MacDermid was a +3 against the Stars with a goal and an assist. It was a good bounce back from the San Antonio game where he came away as the only Reign player with a minus rating.
Not So Much: Ray Emery looked rusty & shaky in his third game of the season. With Bartosak out of the picture for awhile, perhaps even permanently, the Reign will need Emery to be solid. Budaj has been amazing, but he was not meant to carry the team for the entire season. Emery will need to step up if budaj begins to fade.
Elsewhere in the Division: It was travel weekend for teh Pacific Division, with San Diego journeying out to Grand Rapids then Milwaukee. Neither game went well for the Gulls as they lost both in regulation. The Griffins went 4 for 9 on the power play against the Gulls. There is nothing pretty about that.
Bakersfield also left the Golden State to take on Manitoba in a low scoring affair that saw the Condors win 2-1. They are playing a rematch today.
San Jose rolled up the freeway to Stockton Saturday night. The teams traded goals before moving to overtime then finally the shoot out. Stockton would win the shoot out and take the game 4-3.
The end of the weekend has Ontario first in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. They have also taken sole possession of third in the league.