ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign faced off against old friends the San Diego Gulls on Saturday for Star Wars night and came away with a win. The increasingly dangerous-looking Stockton Heat came into town Sunday afternoon, but the Reign could only manage a point, as they lost in OT after giving up a 4-2 lead going into the third period.
San Diego has yet to win in Ontario this season, and though they came close this weekend, the Reign would take the overtime win 5-4. Ontario controls their season series over the Gulls with the win, at four games to one.
Jordan Spence opened the scoring for the Reign with a power-play goal for his first of the season and the first of his AHL career. TJ Tynan added to his point lead with his 21st assist. The Reign’s power play continues to excel, chugging along at 25%, or to put it another way, they’re scoring on average once every four opportunities. In 26 games this season, they’ve scored 27 power-play goals, better than a goal per game.
While the discipline was better this game than it has been this season, the penalty kill continues to be this team’s fundamental weakness. The penalty kill didn’t even make it a minute into the first kill of the night before conceding a goal. Nikolas Brouillard scored his fourth of the season just 35 seconds into a Quinton Byfield roughing minor. After this weekend, the only team with a worse penalty kill is the San Jose Barracuda.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan would tie the game at two with the Reign’s second power-play goal of the night, Anderson-Dolan’s seventh goal of the season, and Spence adds an assist for a two-point night. A high-scoring second period ended with a 4-3 Gulls advantage after Brayden Tracey (SD), Quinton Byfield (ONT), and Hunter Drew (SD) all lit the lamp at even strength.
Tynan continued his MVP campaign with a three-point night, including his sixth goal of the season to tie things up at 13:20 of the third, and then collecting the primary assist on the game-winning goal by Samuel Fagemo in overtime.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) January 9, 2022
More concerning than the penalty kill though, might be the goaltending. Garett Sparks left the game after the Gulls took a 2-1 lead 51 seconds into the second period, leaving Lukas Parik to make his AHL debut. Parik finished the night with nine saves on 11 shots and his first career AHL win. With Matt Villalta out of action since late December and Sparks now potentially sidelined, we’re likely to see more of Parik in the near future.
The Stockton Heat are looking like the real deal this season, and they were red-hot coming into Sunday afternoon’s matchup against the Reign. It has been since November since the two teams played each other, with the Reign winning their last matchup against the Heat and the season series was deadlocked 1-1.
Stockton would end up forcing overtime after washing out a 4-2 lead and taking the two points home with them, as the Reign lose, 5-4 in overtime.
Stockton opened the scoring just 1:51 into the contest with Eetu Tuulola scoring on the power play. It was another back and forth period, offense wise, with Fagemo scored his tenth of the season at 5:51 of the period. The teams exchanged goals again in the back half of the period when Matthew Phillips lit the lamp for Stockton at 14:25 of the period, and Byfield answering for Ontario less than two minutes later. Byfield is hot, with three goals in his last three games, after going pointless in his first five.
The second period however was where the Reign really took off, turning a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 game with goals from Tyler Madden, and then Anderson-Dolan on the power play.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) January 10, 2022
The Reign failed to cling to the lead though, as Stockton did to them what the Reign did to the Gulls the previous game, forcing overtime and then taking the two points home with them. Walker Duehr and Martin Pospisil scored in the third period, before Connor Mackey scored the game winner only 24 seconds into the extra frame.
Overall, it was a pretty good weekend for the Reign, taking three of four points, and coming within a hair of beating the current division leaders. Currently, they stand second in the division with a record of 16-6-3-1 and a points percentage of .692.
Hopefully they can get one of their starting goalies back before next weekend. Should that happen, they appear setup to continue their strong play this month, after a weak December.
Saturday night is Hockey Is For Everyone Night at Toyota Center! The Reign will be welcoming the Silver Knights to town, with a return trip to Henderson for a Sunday afternoon contest.
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