ONTARIO, CA – It was still 90 degrees at 6:30pm and ash was raining down from the sky (from nearby fires). This is hockey weather Southern California style.
The Ontario Reign hosted the Texas Stars for their first home game of the season. Last season, the Stars were the team that skewed all of the statistics for any of their opponents. They had the both the highest goals for and the highest goals against of any team in the league. This season, they rolled into Ontario after having opened their season with a 4-0 win and a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers at home, then suffered a 3-0 loss to Stockton in Stockton.
The Reign were playing only their second game, having handily defeated the San Diego Gulls in their home opener last weekend. The acknowledged story line was Jack Campbell playing his old team, but perhaps it should have been what happens to the Reign when they play the Stars. Specifically, their anemic offense suddenly comes to life.
For the first period, it was all Ontario. An early goal by Zach Leslie on the first power play of the game put the Reign up 1-0. Under three minutes later, Vincent LoVerde added to that with a goal of his own. Texas got one under a minutes after that, but a great effort by Justin Auger sprang LoVerde for a breakaway short-handed goal at 13:03 of the first. Yet another goal tipped in by T.J. Hensick off of a LoVerde shot on the power play put the Reign up 4-1 and the first period wasn’t even over yet.
The second period was a different story. The Stars came out for the second calmer and ready to enforce their style of play, forcing the Reign to take penalties. Here the Reign’s PK hurt them as the Stars scored two goals to come within 1. Ontario managed to stop the parade to the penalty box for long enough to get their own power play. Michael Mersch‘s tenacity was rewarded with a rebound goal of his own to regain a two-goal lead.
Texas wasn’t done. Two goals from Andrew Bodnarchuk (former Kings’ prospect) tied the game midway through an even third period. After a few close calls at both ends, the teams had to push into overtime.
The overtime was all Ontario. After a shift completely controlled by Kempe, Mersch & LoVerde, a handoff to Kevin Gravel sent Jonny Brodzinski and Gravel down the ice in a 2 on 2. Gravel passed it off to Brodzinski who buried the game winning goal.
Impressive: We can’t write enough about Vincent LoVerde. Despite getting all three of his points in the first period, he was a monster for the entire night. Whether it was laying out the booming hip checks the crowd loves, setting up quality scoring chances for others or coming within inches of his own hat trick, LoVerde was well deserving of the first star.
Not So Much: Jack Campbell’s shine got a little tarnished last night. Although the Stars are known for their offense and a couple of the goals cannot be laid at his feet, there were a couple more we’re sure he’d like back. Campbell seemed less together than he was in San Diego. Here’s hoping it was a minor setback.
Elsewhere in the Division: The Tucson Roadrunners picked up their first win in overtime against the Stockton Heat. Marek Langhamer also gained the team’s confidence, stopping 43 of 44 shots, including 19 shots in the second period alone. Out in Iowa, the Charlotte Checkers handed the Iowa Wild an 8-3 beating, scoring 5 goals in the first period (former Reign player Valentin Zykov scored the 7th goal)