ONTARIO, CA – Thursday morning, the San Diego Gulls made the journey up the southern California freeways to take on the Reign in front of a crowd of enthusiastic students. For their second preseason game in as many days, the Ontario Reign welcomed the Tucson Roadrunners to town.
The Gulls and the Reign played a relatively sedate preseason game, with the focus more on individual skill than systems or sending any messages.
Friday night’s game, however, was a special teams showcase. The Reign and the Roadrunners combined for 15 penalties (9 against Tucson, 6 against the Reign). Ontario’s power play was in early season form, going 3-for-9 on the power play (a fourth goal coming just after the power play had ended). Their penalty kill went 1-for-6, but relied heavily on goaltending and luck to keep the puck out of the net.
The two games didn’t provide much of a preview for the season, but did give a brief glimpse of some new faces that are looking to make the Reign roster. Of the new kids, there were only a couple of stand-outs.
Stepan Falkovsky – This 6-foot-7 man-mountain played in the Kings’ rookie games, but didn’t stand out among the crowd (except for standing above them). He did make a good impression in the Reign’s preseason games, at one point chasing down a breaking Dennis Kravchenko and poking the puck off of his stick. Falkovsky is fast and maneuverable for his size, as well as having a decent passing game, giving him a decent chance of staying in Ontario to start the season.
Philippe Maillet – The highly touted prospect stood out in the rookie games and has continued to make a good impression in the Inland Empire. He was given Friday night off, but performed well against the Gulls. The little (5-foot-9) center has shown good composure and awareness on the ice that will fit in well with the Reign.
Sam Kurker – We also noted him in our rookie game review. In his first preseason game with the Reign on Thursday, where he picked up two goals. He was also given a pass on Friday night’s game, but seems to have a more than a good chance of making the team.
Matt Luff – The 20-year-old has the opportunity to go back to juniors for one more year, but the Reign could use his production to fill the hole that Jonny Brodzinski has left (currently still with the Kings and making a good impression).
The Goaltending Situation:
Jack Campbell is still with the Kings, which is odd seeing as how Quick is their starter and they specifically picked up Kuemper to be his backup. Cal Peterson was sent down early, closely followed by Jeff Zatkoff who passed through waivers to end up back in Ontario.
The projected duo for the Reign was Campbell & Zatkoff, but that leaves Peterson in the wind. In Friday night’s game, Zatkoff started and was replaced by Peterson mid-way through. Neither goalie was particularly spectacular, nor were they pressed very much. Peterson had a problem corralling the puck at times, and dropped it more than once, leading to more chances and one goal for the Roadrunners.
As it stands, Campbell is expected back in Ontario when the Kings make their final cuts and the Reign will have to decide what to do with Peterson. As we have noted before, however, the goaltending situation can drastically change within a day.