Last night, the two Southern California AHL teams met for game 5 of what was to be a tight series.
San Diego was the only Pacific Division team to have a winning record against the Reign and had kept pace with them for most of the series. The Gulls knew how to play the Reign’s style and adapt it into their own. Matt Hackett had proven to be solid in net and Khodobin’s injury did not hold the Gulls back.
Unfortunately, they were a goal short in four of five games.
Friday night, the teams played a spirited game at the Valley View Casino Arena in San Diego. The Gulls scored first with Shea Theodore finding the back of the net on the power play. The Reign responded with an overwhelming tide of shots at Hackett, pouring 16 pucks on net in the second period alone. The equalizer came from Dowd four minutes into the third. Mid-way through the final frame, Mueller regained the lead for the Gulls, but it would only last one minute as Kempe responded with a goal of his own to re-tie the game. Two minutes after that, Kempe scored again to give the Reign the lead. The Gulls weren’t ready to quit, however, and responded with another tying goal 10 seconds later. Mike Amadio would play overtime hero, giving the Reign their third win after six and a half minutes of overtime.
Saturday night, the Gulls returned to Ontario facing elimination. They came out fast in the first period as always. The Reign were ready, however, and adapted quickly. They brought their stifling possession game into play, limiting the Gulls to just two shots in the first period. Hackett was once again the rock upon which the Gulls could stand, until the second period. A dump into the zone got away from him, bouncing out to Joel Lowry in front of the net while he was still behind it. It was a goal that you really don’t want to win the series, but it would prove to be the one they could not afford. Later in the period, after some sustained pressure and close calls by the Reign, Chris Wagner got a break down the ice with Nick Ritchie and tied the game off of a quick shot that beat Budaj. The relief lasted only 25 seconds as Justin Auger came into the zone on a 2 on 1 with Mike Amadio. He held on to the puck and sent his own admirable shot past Hackett, regaining the one goal lead. From there, it was all about the Reign’s control of the puck. They kept any shots to the outside, limiting chances to tie the game.
31 minutes later, to a cacophony of 7,000 cheering fans, the Reign became the first team to move on to round 3. They now await the victor in the Lake Erie – Grand Rapids series.
Impressive: The Reign’s fourth line of Amadio-Horvat-Bissonnette was dangerous all night long, grabbing the first goal off of Hackett’s mistake and an aggressive fore-check.
Not So Much: It is getting harder to find fault in Ontario’s game. The only area that seems to still give them trouble is the power play.
Elsewhere in the Playoffs: The Grand Rapid Griffins managed to stave off elimination again with a dominating 6-1 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters. The Monsters still lead the series 3-2. The Albany Devils have pushed the Toronto Marlies to a game seven in a series that turned out to be closer than what was expected. The Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will be playing their own game seven this evening to determine who wins the Atlantic Division.