ONTARIO, Calif. – It wasn’t a matter of who wanted it more. It wasn’t up to special teams, who had the better offense or stronger defense. It wasn’t even a matter of which goaltender was better.
It all came down to a mistake by a defender. One mistake in 240 minutes of play.
The Ontario Reign came into Tuesday night’s game knowing it was win or go home, and they played like it. After a typically slow start to the first period, The Reign grabbed control of play and held on for most of the first. A late power play gave the Stars a boost in the shots department to finish the period up 13-12, but at one point they had been outshot 7-2. Neither netminder was giving an inch, however, and the teams were held to a scoreless tie.
The second period featured much of the same, with each team getting chances on the power play and the Reign taking control once the period got going. This time, the Stars were unable to regain any momentum. Ontario outshot Texas 13-6, but the scoreless tie held.
Ontario carried their momentum into the third, where they spent the vast majority of the period attacking the Stars net. Just under seven minutes into the frame, however, Kurtis MacDermid sent an ill-advised pass to the center of the ice where Roope Hintz was waiting to pick it off. The interception sent Hintz and Denis Gurianov back the other way on a 2 on 1 breakaway. Cal Petersen stopped Hintz’s initial shot, but gave up the rebound to Gurianov who put it home.
That was the extent of the scoring. After the goal, the Reign redoubled their efforts, out-shooting the Stars 22-7. They got to all of the loose pucks and maintained possession almost continuously for the rest of the period. The Stars, however, did a great job at boxing out the Reign, forcing low percentage shots from the outside and clearing out the traffic in front of Mike McKenna. McKenna, for his part, stopped anything that got through.
The Reign became the first team to be eliminated from the AHL playoffs, much like their parent club was the first team to be eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
With the same score in the last game as well.
The Good: The Reign never faded back or gave up. They knew they were facing an end to their season and played like it. The Stars did as great job of bending but not breaking, allowing the Reign control, but not letting them in to any dangerous scoring areas.
The Bad: The Reign never forced their way into the dangerous areas, not generating any traffic and allowed McKenna to clearly see the puck on most shots. The Stars were completely outplayed in the third period and for large portions of the rest of the game. While they are moving on to the next round, it could come back to hurt them.
The Ugly: We mentioned above the pass that led to the goal. Prior to that, however, were a few other egregious turnovers by the Reign right in front of their net. Petersen had their back, but they were playing with fire in the beginning of the third.