ONTARIO, Calif. – In the midst of their second extended road trip of the season’s second half, the Cleveland Monsters were back in the Inland Empire Saturday night for a rematch against the Ontario Reign.
Two weeks earlier, the two teams needed overtime for the Reign to pull out a win in a hard-hitting game. Saturday night’s game started where the last had left off, with every check finished and shoving matches after the whistle.
The Monsters were the first on the board with a goal from Calvin Thurkauf. Under a minute later, it looked like Jonny Brodzinski had tied the game, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference. The tying goal came on the power play later in the period from Sean Walker. Philippe Maillet picked up his first assist in what would be yet another multi-point game.
The second period saw much of the same until Kale Kessy charged Matt Moulson. Brett Sutter stepped up to make Kessy answer for the hit and the mood changed to something a bit nastier. Matt Moulson got his revenge with a power-play goal set up by Michael Mersch and Philippe Maillet. The Monsters didn’t give up, however, and re-tied the game on a goal from Miles Koules. That only lasted 62 seconds before Sean Walker set up Matt Moulson for a goal that was nearly identical to his first.
The third period saw more roughing, fighting (for which Kale Kessy picked up a game misconduct), a missed call when the puck hit the netting and fell back to the ice, and an unsportsmanlike conduct against Jordan Subban before either team could post another goal. 16 minutes into the third, Austin Wagner pulled his now signature move, taking the puck up the ice & in front of the netminder before putting it home. Two minutes later, Michael Mersch found the empty net to make it 5-2 Reign. The Monsters still didn’t give up, managing to pull within two off of a goal from Jordan Schoeder 30 seconds later.
They would run out of time, however, and the Reign took the contest 5-3.
The Good: The Reign had two power-play goals out of four chances and managed to not surrender a shorthanded chance. The M & M & M (Michael Mersch – Philippe Maillet –Matt Moulson) line had three points each and looked dominant doing it. They were only overshadowed by Sean Walker’s 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists).
The Bad: The Reign took yet another penalty late in the third period when there was still a good chance for the Monsters to tie it up. They need to be more disciplined when clinging to a lead.
The Ugly: This one goes to the officiating which made some questionable calls while missing others. While none of it seemed malicious or intending to give either team an advantage, it did disrupt the game at times.
The Result: The Bakersfield Condors took down the San Diego Gulls, breaking the tie between the two Southern California teams. The Reign are now a bit more comfortably positioned in second place. The Texas Stars beat the Chicago Wolves, holding on to fourth place and closing the gap on the San Diego Gulls. The Stockton Heat defeated the San Antonio Rampage, moving within .005 percentage points of fifth place. Both teams are still mathematically within striking distance of fourth place.