ONTARIO, CA – When the season schedule was assembled months ago, no one could have predicted that the Reign would be facing the top two teams in the Pacific back to back. Last Friday, they faced the Stockton Heat in a close fought battle that looked like it was going to go to overtime.
New Year’s Eve, the Tucson Roadrunners came to town. The history between Ontario and Tucson does not favor the Reign this season and there was every possibility that the post game fireworks would be the only bright spot of the night.
The Roadrunners have developed a reputation for a slow start, and Sunday’s game was no exception. The Reign came out strong and held the majority of the momentum through the first half of the period. They couldn’t get one past Adin Hill, however, and the Roadrunners began to turn the tables. Jack Campbell kept the score tied at 0 until 16 minutes into the first. In the waning seconds of a power play, Dakota Mermis fed Mike Sislo the puck who fired a laser just over Campbell’s shoulder, ruffling his jersey as it went by.
An odd four-minute minor for slashing gave the Reign an extended power play at the end of the first, carrying into the second. Another Tucson penalty announced for ‘throwing equipment’ but officially a broken stick gave the Reign an extended 5 on 3 power play. They did not do much with it. Seemingly content to pass the puck around instead of taking a chance on a shot, the Reign were unable to generate any quality chances and lost any momentum they had gained. Midway through the period, Campbell’s shoulder lost more fabric when Nick Merkley fired his shot into the net. Ontario did not fade back as usual, however, and recovered enough to challenge Hill.
The two teams fought each other to an impasse in the third in the most evenly matched game they’ve played this year. Both netminders were up to the task, however, and the score remained 2-0 until 18:03. With Campbell pulled for the extra attacker, Philippe Maillet received a pass from Mike Amadio and shot the puck past Adin Hill’s shoulder to break the shut-out. They would not be able to complete the comeback and the Roadrunners took the game 2-1.
The Good: Ontario began their typical fade back in the second, but managed to arrest the fall and pull themselves back into the game.
The Bad: After a good game on Friday, Both Matt Luff and Jordan Subban struggled Sunday evening. Matt Luff was guilty of quite a few bad decisions, especially with passes, trapping the Reign in their own zone for large swaths of time. Subban tried to do too much and often got caught out of position.
The Ugly: The Reign surrendered yet another power play goal to keep their streak of one a game alive. Their penalty kill has been far below the level that fans have come to expect from the defensively minded group. On the other side of the special teams coin, the power play has had large issues getting the puck to the net as players pass up opportunities to shoot, choosing to pass instead. This has led to few scoring opportunities and often lets the other team clear the puck instead.
Bonus Round: The Reign wore special jerseys during warm-ups with their chosen nick-name on the name-plate. Now fans know what to call them when yelling from the stands.