ONTARIO, CA – When we last checked in with the Reign, they had just dropped a New Year’s Eve game to the Tucson Roadrunners and were going to follow them out to Tucson for two more games. Ontario was desperately clinging to 5th place in the tightest division in the league.
Last Friday, the Roadrunners started out strong as the Reign surrendered their seemingly requisite power play goal per game within the first five minutes. Ontario had an answer three minutes later, however, in the form of the dynamic duo of Mike Amadio & Matt Moulson (M&M). A penalty shot at 16:28 to Justin Auger gave the Reign the lead. The teams played to a stalemate in the second until a last second scramble tied the game at 19:59. Unfortunately, the Reign engaged in their frustrating habit of fading back in the third with Cal Peterson leading the way. Ryan MacInnis got an early goal to take the lead and the Reign were unable to respond. Tye McGinn gave Tucson the 2-goal lead and though the Reign would pick up another goal with Cal Peterson pulled, they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Reign came out on fire in Saturday’s game, controlling most of the first half of the period and pulling ahead 1-0 with a goal from Michael Mersch. Another power play from Dylan Strome, however, tied the game before the end of the period. 10 seconds into the second, Paul LaDue grabbed a loose neutral zone puck, took a shot & kept driving to the net where he was rewarded with rebound that he put home. Midway through the 2nd, the Roadrunners got caught in their own zone and a shot from Matt Roy was deflected past Adin Hill by Brett Sutter for a 3-1 lead. Under 1 minute later, Tyler Gaudet brought the Roadrunners back within 1, putting home a rebound spit out by Jack Campbell. Under two minutes later, on a power play picked up after Gaudet’s goal, Amadio took a shot that went into net, but Hill had kicked the net off moorings moving from side to side. After reviewing the play, the Reign were awarded the goal, giving them the 4-2 lead. Auger gave the Reign the 5-2 lead 10 minutes into the third, but the Roadrunners closed the gap again, scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. In a reversal from the night before, Tucson couldn’t complete their comeback and with the empty net goal, the Reign picked up the 6-3 win.
The Reign returned to Ontario for a mid-week game against the Rockford IceHogs. They welcomed back Jonny Brodzinski and Kevin Gravel, who returned from the LA Kings. On his first shift back, Jonny B. put the Reign up 1-0 with help from Amadio and Gravel. Rockford’s William Pelletier tied the game at 14:16, but that only lasted 45 seconds before Mersch made it 2-1 on the power play, also with help from Gravel & Amadio. Unfortunately, the Reign began to fade back in the second again, relying on Peterson to keep the lead. Pelletier once again tied the game at 4:22 and the Reign couldn’t answer back. A goal from human tower Viktor Svedberg 2:51 into the third gave Rockford the lead and they never looked back. The Reign continued to allow the IceHogs to control the period, surrendering a short-handed goal on a break away and the empty net goal that gave Pelletier the hat trick.
The Good: The Reign finally managed to match Tucson in level of play, presenting a challenge to the division leaders both nights they played. Moulson and Amadio have found amazing chemistry together, becoming a danger to the opposing team every time they are on the ice. The addition of Jonny B. to the line has made it down right deadly
The Bad: The Reign are still having entire periods where their play falls off, giving the other team the chance to get back in the game. It cost them the New Year’s Eve game and Wednesday’s game against the IceHogs.
The Ugly: Ontario did not look good in the last period of Wednesday night’s game. The IceHogs outplayed them at every turn, getting quite a few breakaway chances, which included the short-handed goal. The power play itself began to be a liability in the latter half of the game, causing the Reign to lose momentum rather than generating scoring chances.
The Result: Wednesday’s loss dropped the Reign to the bottom of the Pacific Division. With only 0.088 percentage points separating first from last, however, there is still a chance for redemption should Ontario manage to generate a long winning streak.