ONTARIO, CA – Bakersfield had the dubious honor of being the opposing team for Ontario’s Fan Appreciation night. They obliged by putting up a good fight, but ultimately falling in the end.
In a largely penalty-free game that could have been the ultimate snooze fest, both teams came out flying. Setting an early tone of speed and good scoring chances, they were evenly matched throughout the first period. With only 2.2 seconds, however, defenseman Brad Hunt fired shot from the blue lined which zipped past everyone, including Reign goaltender Peter Budaj, putting the Condors up 1-0.
The Condors started the second period with all of the momentum. It looked like the Reign were destined to have another mental vacation in the middle of the game, but the line of Michael Mersch-Brett Sutter-Jonny Broszinski wasn’t having it and began to take it to the Condors. Their persistence paid off when Sutter corralled a rebound off of a Mersch shot and lifted it over Condors goaltender Ty Rimmer, tying the game at 1. The Condors were able to keep a lid on any boost the Reign might have gained and the teams closed the period tied at one.
The third period seemed to be more of the same until Justin Auger broke the stalemate. Five minutes later, Joel Lowry put the Reign up 3-1 and Ontario had control of the game. The death knell was an empty net goal that Lowry deflected into the net off of a Kris Newbury shot. The Reign would carry that score to win 4-1.
Impressive: All four line took turns looking dangerous & controlling the play. The first line was especially notable, with Jonny B, Mersch and Sutter finding some good chemistry. The second and third lines started slow, but eventually showed up for the third period.
Not So Much: Matt Schmalz looked awkward and a little star struck on the ice. He seems to be uncomfortable with his size, which is odd given the company he is now in. We expected him to calm down & settle in as the game went on, but the play just seemed too fast for him. Maybe he’ll do better in his next game. Adrian Kempe has been largely invisible in the past few games as well.
The Playoff Picture: The San Jose Barracuda won over the Texas Stars Friday night, inching closer to Charlotte and the last playoff spot. The loss keeps the Stars in third place, likely surrendering home ice advantage to the Gulls. The Condors loss puts a playoff spot all but out of reach, dumping them below the Stockton Heat in the standings.
The Reign will now take to the road to end the 2015-16 regular season, with a game against the Condors tonight and games in San Diego next weekend.