ONTARIO, CA – It’s been a growing trend that began concerning us mid way through December. The Reign’s penalty kill has not looked sharp. After leading the league for most of the beginning of the season, they have allowed 8 goals on 56 chances in the last 10 games.
It may not seem like much until you consider the fact that seven of those goals came in the last seven games. In that same time period, the power play has only notched 2 goals in 42 chances, limping along at a woeful 4% success rate.
These concerning numbers were especially noticeable in the three losses the Reign sustained this week.
On New Year’s Eve, the Reign hosted the Stockton Heat after having picked up a 2-1 win in Stockton. The Heat controlled a good portion of the play, often flat out-playing the Reign despite being outshot 27-19. Their first period goal kept them ahead 1-0 until two minutes into the third period, where another goal put them up 2-0. A power play goal at 16:51 would put the game out of reach for the Reign despite a tally from Vincent LoVerde 22 seconds later. The empty net goal made the score 4-1, but the feel was that the Reign were never really in the game until the third period.
Two days later, the Charlotte Checkers arrived to play the Reign on the second stop of their California tour. The Reign once again out-shot the Checkers 37-14, but could only get one goal past Rasmus Tirronen. Ontario was more a part of this game, cutting the Checker’s lead to one goal two times, but they couldn’t get the equalizer and fell to the empty net goal again.
Sunday afternoon, a listless crowd watched as the Reign fumbled passes, fumbled pucks, turned pucks over, couldn’t clear their own zone and allowed chance after chance. They were out shot 10-4 in the first period alone. yet it was two power play goals that were the difference in this game, with Peter Budaj stopping 19 of 21 shots and all even strength chances. The Checkers took the match 2-0 and swept the weekend.
At the end of the weekend, the Reign were still clinging to the lead in the Pacific, but had fallen to third in the Conference. With the Gulls going 6-4-0 in their last ten games and the Barracuda going 6-2-2, the Reign are starting to feel some pressure from the rest of the division.