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Heating Up in Ontario: Reign Split With Stockton

There’s a new number one in the Pacific Division, as the Ontario Reign split a two-game series against the Stockton Heat and slid down into second place

Heating Up in Ontario: Reign Split With Stockton

ONTARIO, Calif. — There’s a new number one in the Pacific Division, as the Ontario Reign split a two-game series against the Stockton Heat and slid down into second place. Though the Reign have 23 points and the Heat only 22, points percentage gives Stockton the edge in the standings. 

Sunday: Stockton 4, Ontario 2 

The Reign suffered only their second regulation loss this season against the Stockton Heat on Sunday, going down 4-2. Despite Gabe Vilardi opening the scoring in his season debut for the Reign, the Heat would answer back three times, twice on the power play, with goals from Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruznicka, and Byron Froese. Ontario would add a late second-period goal to make it 3-2 from Helge Grans on the power play with his second of the season,  Vladimir Tkachev added his tenth assist in only his sixth game, but the Reign were unable to draw even, and the Heat would eventually put this one to bed with an empty netter from Luke Philp.

The name of this game was goaltending and discipline. The Heat’s goalie, Dustin Wolf, made 31-of-33 saves, and the Reign would take six minor penalties, including one offsetting minor. That’s not ideal for a team with the league’s worst penalty kill, at only 72.9%. They would kill off three of these penalties, but a 60% success rate on the night isn’t good enough.

The Reign are the third-most penalized team in the division and have been shorthanded 59 times in 14 games, an average of just over 4 minor penalties a game. When the team is allowing just over a PPG every four penalties, those power-play goals start to add up. Ontario is currently leading the league in PPG allowed, which is not the record you want to be holding. This has been a concern all season, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

The power play continues to lead the league as well, which is a silver lining, but in this game, Stockton had them beat, allowing only one power-play goal on five penalties, including an almost 90 seconds 5-on-3, which the Reign failed to score on. The Heat have the 9th best penalty kill in the league, and it was on show on Sunday night.

Monday: Ontario 5, Stockton 2 

Oh boy. Monday’s game started off with a bang, as Tyler Madden scored his third of the season only 2:13 into the first period. Less than two minutes later, somehow it was a 2-1 Stockton lead, as Matthew Phillips and Glenn Gawdin scored 50 seconds apart. The game would settle down after that, as Madden tied the game at two 12 minutes in, but there were a few moments where it was looking like a real barn burner. The only goal in the second period was Philp, giving the Heat a 3-2 lead, and it was starting to feel like a repeat of Sunday’s game right up until the third period.

Goals from Brett Sutter, Austin Strand, and Tkachev (his first as a Reign, giving him a seven-game point streak) would put this one to bed, and the final score was 5-2, extinguishing the Heat.

Sean Durzi (called up to the LA Kings earlier today and looking to make his NHL debut in Wednesday’s game) had himself a game, with a three-assist night giving him 16 points on the season and sneaking him into the top ten in AHL scoring. Of note, current points leader Martin Frk went scoreless in both games, but still retains his grip on the league lead, with 20 in 14 games. 

The discipline was much better in this game, as the Reign only took three minor penalties, one of which was an offsetting roughing minor from TJ Tynan, back from his brief stint with the Kings. Ontario killed both their penalties, and Stockton would kill their lone trip to the box with ease. You have to think that coaches from both teams were unhappy with the penalty box parade on Sunday, and Monday’s game was much improved.

Coming up

The Reign are back in action at Toyota Center on Friday and Saturday, as they welcome first the Bakersfield Condors for a rematch, and then the San Jose Barracuda for the first time this season.

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