Ontario, CA- Ontario and San Diego have developed a bitter rivalry over the two seasons that the AHL has been in both cities. Helped by two playoff meetings, various borderline hits, one bad boarding from MacDermid that resulted in a 10 game suspension, and their affiliate teams also being rivals (though not as bitter). Meetings between the two teams generally include a lot of hard hitting, after whistle scrums, a couple of fights and general nastiness.
Friday night’s game contained very little of these. After early hostilities between Olesky and Crescenzi, the Gulls gave the Reign a two-man advantage for just under a minute. Philippe Maillet took advantage of the opportunity and put the Reign up 1-0. That would be it for scoring, hostilities and general energy from either team. Ontario fully dominated nearly every aspect of the game, outshooting the Gulls 42-27. Only a great game from Leland Irving prevented the score from being worse.
Saturday night, the teams had remembered why they don’t like each other. Ontario began the game fully in charge again, out-shooting the Gulls 15-3 at one point. Unfortunately, Kevin Gravel got tangled up with Jack Campbell towards the end of the first, looking like some kind of comedy routine for a few seconds where the puck squirted around and off to the side of the two. Jeff Schultz took advantage of the chaos to put the Gulls up 1-0. Just over a minute later, Andy Welinski fired the puck past Campbell on a shot from the blueline during a power play.
The second period was more of an even affair, and the Reign took the opportunity to tie it up as first Brett Sutter than Paul LaDue shoveled pucks past Reto Berra.
San Diego came out firing in the third, trapping the Reing in their own zone for extended periods of time. Six minutes into the third period, however, Mersch stole a centering pass after most of the Gulls had cleared their own zone. Alone in front of Berra, he gave the Reign the one-goal lead. The Gulls went back to controlling the period and were able to tie the game on the power play.
The game went into and through overtime with neither team able to put it away. Campbell struggled in the shootout, however, unable to stop either Gulls skater while the Reign couldn’t put anything past Berra. The gulls took the contest 4-3 to end the Reign’s short win streak.
The Good: The Reign seem to have figured out how to play as a team, no longer fumbling around bobbling passes. Philippe Maillet was finally rewarded for all of his hard work with Friday’s only goal. The line of Michael Mersch, T.J. Hensick and Jonny Brodzinski has emerged as the true first line, dangerous every time they are on the ice.
The Bad: The Reign are still having problems with the level of play declining after the first period. While credit can be given to the opposing teams for upping their intensity, the Reign are still backing off and letting them back into the game. Saturday night it cost them the win.
The Ugly: Both teams had nasty hits & other uncalled shenanigans, two of which saw players leave the ice slowly & in pain. After JonnyB leveled one of these, he was jumped on while down on the ice. While the bitterness makes the meetings more interesting, no one wants to see a player taken out through injury.