TUCSON, AZ – Ever since their first win at the end of October, the Reign have been a tear, climbing their way up the standings to be back in the contender conversation. However, many of those victories have come against other teams that have also been struggling. While looking better in their wins, there was still the question of whether the Reign were for real or benefitting from a more relaxed part of the schedule.
Sunday afternoon, they went to the Arizona desert to test their skills against the division-leading Tucson Roadrunners.
The Roadrunners entered the arena without their top offensive player in Dylan Strome or their starting goaltender in Adin Hill. The question for the Roadrunners was who would step up?
The game left more questions than answers.
The Reign were outplayed throughout most of the game. They came out flat and were trapped in their zone for large swaths of time. Jack Campbell was on his game, however, and kept the puck out of the back of his net while the Reign found their footing. At the other end of the ice, Miska Hunter looked uncomfortably slow. The first goal by Michael Mersch could be viewed as soft, but the second goal from Justin Auger was a matter of Hunter not tracking the puck at all.
The Roadrunners would find a couple of goals from Kyle Capobianco and Jens Looke by virtue of perfect shots and good screening, by the Reign’s T.J. Hensick answered with two goals of his own.
Jack Campbell. Really. Despite not getting the shut-out, he was the reason the reign came away with the win.
Miska Hunter looked very shaky throughout the game. He would have moments of solid play, followed quickly by a close call or a goal. The Roadrunners either need to get him into more games to settle him down or give him some time in the ECHL to develop a little more.
At no point did the Reign dominate play. They benefited from lucky bounces and good goaltending. Ontario had a bad start and never fully recovered. The dominating play we saw exhibited in games with Stockton and San Jose was nowhere to be found.
Not much changed. The game did not affect either teams’ place in the standings. The Tucson Roadrunners are still firmly entrenched in first place while the Ontario Reign cling to 5th (still tied with the Barracuda in points percentage). The Roadrunners are still looking for players to fill the gaps they have, and the Reign’s legitimacy is still in question.