ONTARIO, Cal. – After scoring two goals early in the second period, the Iowa Wild looked like they were going to roll over the Ontario Reign on Sunday afternoon. However, Matt Villalta shut the door from that point on, and the Reign scored four unanswered goals to down the Wild, 4-3. That ruined a big night for J.T. Brown, who had his first two-goal game of the year.
As they had the night before, the Wild came out of the first period leading 1-0. With Iowa on the power play, Matt Bartkowski passed the puck across the blueline to Brown. He skated in about 10 feet, then fired a wrist shot that looked like the Ontario goaltender made the save, but it slowly began to crawl through his pads and toward the goal line. Villalta scrambled to reach back to try to snare the puck before it crossed the line but, in doing so, he actually knocked it across and in, giving Brown his fourth goal of the year. For Brown, that was his first point in eight games.
In the second, the Wild added two goals within the first five minutes to extend their lead to three. The first came at 2:48 with Iowa on the power play again. Using the exact same setup they had used successfully the night before, Louie Belpedio skated in from the right boards, passing the puck to Kyle Rau who was at the side of the net. Rau made the one-touch pass to Will Bitten in the slot, who blasted the one timer by Villalta for his fourth goal of the year.
Less than two minutes later, Iowa was back on the scoreboard. Rau carried the puck into the Ontario end on a 2-on-1 break. As he got to about 10 feet from the net, he opted to drop it back to Brown who was trailing the play. Brown blasted the one-timer by Villalta for his second goal of the game. Rau and Belpedio each earned assists on the play, giving each player two helpers.
Everything was going the way of the Iowa Wild but, a minute after the Brown goal, Bokondji Imama finally scored for the Reign. Mikey Anderson gained control of the puck along the boards in the Iowa end. He fired a shot toward the goal that Imama tipped between the legs of Dereck Baribeau for his first goal of the season.
The Wild held the two goal lead for the next 10 minutes, but two goals by the Ontario Reign tied the score before the second period ended. The first came at 15:41 with Ontario on the power play. A clearing attempt for Iowa was thwarted when the Wild player was tripped from behind but did not draw a whistle. Sheldon Rempal passed the puck back to Kale Clague, who skated to the midpoint of the blueline before blasting a shot. Baribeau got a piece of it but it snuck through his side and arm and into the net to cut the deficit to one.
A little less than two minutes later Ontario tied the score. With the draw in the Iowa end, Brett Sutter won the faceoff back to Tobais Bjornfot. He fed it to Austin Strand, who blasted a shot from the point that went through the legs of Baribeau for his fourth goal of the year.
The score remained tied through much of the third period but, with three minutes left in the game, Mikey Eyssimont delivered the game winner. The Reign were able to keep the puck in the Iowa end. It eventually came Martin Frk near the side of the net. He passed the puck to Eyssimont, who was standing alone in the high slot. The Ontario forward fired a wrist shot that went over the shoulder of Baribeau for his fourth goal of the year. That made it 4-3, which would be the final.
After a shaky start, Villalta was great for Ontario. He finished with 30 saves in earning his first victory of his professional career.
Rau extended his point streak to five straight games. He has a goal and seven assists in the stretch.
The Wild travel to Stockton to take on the Heat on Wednesday. The puck drops at 9:00 PM CT.