ONTARIO, CA- When the last place team in your division comes to town, it generally isn’t the highlight of the game week. When that team is a bitter rival, the game becomes a bit more interesting, but can still be taken less than seriously.
It was obvious when the Ontario Reign took the ice Friday night that they were not completely into the game.
The San Diego Gulls have built a reputation this season for being out-shot and out-played for a good portion of their games, relying on goaltending to keep it close. It is something they have been working to fix, and for the first portion of the game, they succeeded. Mid-way through the first period, they had outshot the Reign 5-0 and Ontario seemed to not really be interested. The Reign managed to find a spark of interest and turned themselves around closing the period tied at 0 and only being outshot 8-7.
The Gulls were back to allowing large amounts of shots in the second, but few actual quality chances. The best one came on a 3-on-2 break when Stepan Falkovsky jumped into the rush. Falkovsky fired the puck past Reto Berra to put the Reign up 1-0. The lead was short-lived as Scott Sabourin tied the game just over two minutes later. The teams settled into an offensive stalemate, trading low percentage chances, penalties, and unpleasantries.
14 seconds into the third, Jamie Devane took a high-sticking penalty and the Gulls took advantage. Giovanni Fiore put the Gulls up 2-1 for most of the period. Ontario pulled Petersen for the extra attack and managed to draw a penalty with only thirty seconds left in the game. Kevin Gravel played hero, firing the puck into the net from the blueline just 5 seconds into the power play. Things looked like they were headed to overtime when the Reign gave up on a play. Giovanni Fiore made them pay, scoring with just 3 seconds left to win the game for the Gulls.
The Good: Stepan Falkovsky has been making good strides in his development as an offensive defenseman and it is giving him lots of confidence. Paul LaDue was also having a decent game, showing off a ton of speed that has been missing this season.
The Bad: The Reign can’t seem to sustain interest in a game. They have periods of dominance, periods of tough physical play, and then they sit back and allow the other team back into the game.
The Ugly: Jamie Devane and Alex Lintuniemi had bad bordering on brutal games. Both seemed to not be able to think their actions through, taking untimely penalties and making highly questionable decisions.
The Standings: The bright side for the Reign is that the standings have not changed. They still sit in 5th place (by virtue of having a goal differential of zero over the San Jose Barracuda) and the Gulls are still in last place. The gap between fourth and eighth has become significantly tighter and the Reign now take to the road to face the division-leading Tucson Roadrunners. They will need to win a majority of their games in the next three weeks to still be in the playoff conversation when the New Year comes.