ONTARIO, CA – The stats will say the Reign outshot the San Antonio Rampage in the first period last night. They will probably even show that the Reign controlled possession. That possession, however, was sloppy and unfocused. The Rampage scored a quick goal 1:41 into the game and it seemed the Reign didn’t have an answer. A fight instigated by Brett Sutter didn’t help. A power play made it worse and the Rampage scored again shortly after it ended. The Reign fumbled around for the rest of the period, lucky to come away down by only 2 goals.
The second period started much like the first, with sloppy passes and unfocused playing. It was only after the crowd booed the listless 5 on 3 power play off the ice did the Reign show some life. It came in the form of Justin Auger not giving up on his own rebound. He was rewarded with a goal to cut the Rampage’s lead in half. After that goal, the Reign’s lower lines seemed to come to life, which led to Brett Sutter’s tying goal ten minutes later. Seizing the momentum, the Reign dominated the last two minutes and seemed seconds away from a third goal when the period end buzzer deflated the arena.
The Reign were awake now, however, and Jonny Brodzinski put the Reign up 3-2 on the power play four minutes into the third. Brett Sutter followed it up with his second of the night 1:30 later and the Reign were up 4-2. Sean Backman got in on the scoring another 1:30 after that with an insurance goal. The Rampage did manage to pull within two after a terrible pass from a Reign defender landed right on an uncovered Reid Petryk at the hash marks. Thanking the Reign, he buried it past Budaj. That would be the last the Rampage would get, however, and the Reign stole the game 5-3.
Impressive: The lower lines had monster nights, led by Brett Sutter and his fight followed by two goals including the game winner. Jonny Brodzinski was flying around the ice and was rewarded with a goal and two assists. Justin Auger also seems to be stepping up his play and was rewarded with his own goal and assist.
Not So Much: Another slow start by the Reign followed by a comeback win. They are playing with fire. The first line of Mersch-Dowd-Backman was ineffective and seemed almost uninterested for most of the game.
The Playoff Picture: The Reign still have not officially clinched a playoff position, but their ‘magic number’ is down to 7. San Diego lost a wild one to the Condors, while the Stars were off. This bumped them down to third place. The two teams are separated by 0.004 percentage points, so home ice advantage is going to change with every game, but it looks like it will be Texas vs. San Diego.
The Condors win with the Barracuda inactive pushed them up into fourth place, 0.001 percentage points ahead of San Jose. That one will probably come down to the wire. The Charlotte Checkers also won, however, increasing their lead for the last playoff position to 0.009 percentage points. Reign fans should be watching that race closely as it will probably determine their opponent in the first round.