CEDAR PARK, Texas – Coming into the playoffs, the stats said the matchup between the Ontario Reign and Texas Stars would be evenly matched. They had similar records, had played four tightly contested games, and both had full rosters with their parent club out of the playoffs.
Game one did not disappoint.
The Stars jumped out to an early lead just 3:17 into the game when Sheldon Dries shot the puck from close to the goal line, squeaking it between Cal Petersen and the post. The chance came off of a rush that a slow starting Reign was unable to check. It took the Reign until the middle of the first to generate any offense, but they did finally manage to put pressure on Mike McKenna. However, McKenna kept them off the board and the first closed with the Stars up 1-0.
The Reign started slowly in the second period as well, chasing the Stars and the puck even after a power play. It wasn’t until mid-way through the period that they were able to sustain any offensive zone time, and they used it to good effect. Matt Roy shot the puck from the point into a crowd of players. Justin Auger got the last touch which sent it past McKenna to tie the game. Less than three minutes later, Jonny Brodzinski found himself alone in front of the net with a pass from Mike Amadio. The Stars retook control of the momentum after that, trapping the Reign in their zone, but it was Petersen’s turn to keep the one-goal lead and the period closed with the Reign up 2-1.
It was rinse-and-repeat to start the third period, with the Stars pressuring the Reign with extended possession and breakaways. 8:34 into the period, the Stars caught both of the Reign defensemen deep, sending a 2-on-1 breakaway against Philippe Maillet. Roope Hintz sent a smooth pass over to Denis Gurianov who buried the puck to tie the game. Six minutes later, the Reign got trapped in their zone yet again, and Travis Morin made them pay. Ontario wasn’t done, however, and pulled Petersen with a couple of minutes left for the extra attacker. Matt Moulson tied the game with 1:16 left.
Given the match-up between the two teams, overtime seemed inevitable.
The Reign had another slow start, and this time it cost them the game. They surrendered chance after chance to the Stars until Brian Flynn ended the game 115 seconds into overtime.
The Good: Both teams are getting the offense they need from their top players. Ontario made it through an entire game without a penalty (must be a record of some sort) while the Stars only took three despite the Reign antagonizing them at every turn. While much of that was an officiating choice, the Stars kept their cool throughout the game.
The Bad: The Reign started every period slowly, giving the Stars too many chances against Petersen, who also looked shaky at the start of the game.
The Ugly: Not much to put here. Both teams played portions of the game in top form and other portions chasing the puck. Neither had any egregious errors.
They will meet again for game two tonight at 7 pm Central/5 pm Pacific in what is a must-win for the Reign.