The Reign finally played their first home game to a sold out crowd last night. They welcomed the Bakersfield Condors to town, playing them for the second time this young season. The first time was a 5-0 victory for the Reign. The home crowd was expecting more of the same.
There is something about banner raisings (or droppings, if you’re the CBBA) that seems to throw teams off. The Reign were no exception. After a few technical glitches, some awkward silences and a presentation of the Calder Cup banner that looked like it was going to drop into the crowd for a minute, the game got under way. Just over five minutes into the first, Andrew Miller potted the Condors’ first goal against the Reign on a break away. Only a minute and a haf later, the Reign got stuck n their own zone, with control of the puck but unable to clear it. The Condors forced the turnover and it was now 2-0, Bakersfield.
The fans began to get restless, noting that the Reign were not playing well. Turnovers, bad passes and defensive break downs put Budaj on the spot and he couldn’t deliver. At the other end, Scrivens was standing strong and stopping everything the Reign threw at him.
Budaj was the only one who did.
Eight minutes into the second, another defensive breakdown put the Condors up 3-0. For most of the second, it was more of the same. With barely 5 minutes left in the period, the Reign finally broke through. A shot from Mersch caused a scramble which bounced the rebound right back to him. With Scrivens still screened by the melee in front of the net, Mersch wristed into an open corner. Just six seconds later, Newbury found himself somewhat alone in front of Scrivens, and a little tap to the puck lifted it onto his leg pad where it obligingly rolled over and into the net. The Reign were back in the game but not done yet. 50 seconds later, Crescenzi noted Zykov had found some room on the wing. A cross ice pass &a quick release into another open corner and the Reign had tied the game at 3. Still not done, Justin Auger picked up his own on the power play 103 seconds after the tying goal, putting the Reign up 4-3. Somehow the Condors held on for the rest of the period, even managing to throw a few shots at Budaj, but the Reign had taken control of the game.
The third period opened with the Reign still charging full speed ahead and they were rewarded with another goal by Zykov to put them up 5-3. Then they fell back into the bad habits from the beginning of the game. The difference this time was a more solid looking Budaj who bailed them out time and again. The Condors didn’t give up and managed to put another one past Budaj with just under three minutes left in the game. The Reign clung to a one goal lead to win their home opener and move up to 4-0 for the season.
Impressive – Valentin Zykov is finally showing what we’ve been told to expect. If he can keep it going, he will be an exciting player to watch all season.
Quiet – Kris Newbury isn’t grabbing headlines like Zykov or Mersch, but he has been quietly supporting the Reign’s offense. Whether by scoring himself, setting up others or creating chances, he has been a factor in much of the Reign’s scoring so far.
Not so Much – The Condors, like their parent club, are so close to greatness. They have speed & skill, but something is lacking. It can’t all be blamed on goaltending, because it happens to every netminder they acquire. Should they ever manage to fix what is ailing them, they will be scary good.
Elsewhere in the division- San Diego also moved to 4-0 on the season by shutting out the Barracuda 3-0. The recently returned Wagner had the first goal and assisted on the second. They are second to the Reign in the division by virtue of earning one of the wins in the shootout (all of the Reign wins have been in regulation). The rest of the Pacific Division had the night off.