ONTARIO, Calif.- The Ontario Reign took three of a possible four points this weekend against division leaders Stockton, leaving them only two points back of first place in the Pacific
Friday: Ontario 5, Stockton 2
It was a slow start again for the Reign, who allowed the first goal only two minutes in. Emilio Petterson scored only his second of the season before Tyler Madden tallied his 12th near the end of the first period to tie things up.
In the second period, the Reign really came to life, as they scored three more goals in that frame, from Helge Grans, Austin Strand, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan.
Byron Froese would make it a 4-2 game in the third period, but Martin Frk, assisted by TJ Tynan (who would end up with a four-point weekend), put the puck in the empty net to call game. Apart from Frk’s empty netter, all the goals scored in this game were even strength, as both teams came out with a perfect PK, despite a fair amount of penalties on both sides.
There were two fights in the first period alone. Overall, seven minor penalties were called, four for Stockton and three for Ontario. Alex Gallant ended his night early with a ten-minute match penalty for slew footing.
Notable in this game was the goaltending of Matt Villalta, who continues to impress. He made 33 of 35 saves, including 11 saves in the third, when the Reign were outshot 12 to 6.
Another player to mention for this game is last week’s King Of The Inland Empire, Jordan Spence, who had five shots on goal and an assist, increasing his lead in rookie scoring for defencemen.
Saturday: Stockton 6, Ontario 5 (SO)
Saturday’s game was another goal-scoring and penalty-taking affair, with 10 goals scored in total before Stockton would take it in the fourth round of the shootout.
The Heat opened the scoring again, making it 2-0 on goals from Justin Kirkland and Mark Simpson just over ten minutes in. Then, Gabe Vilardi struck on the power play for his 12th of the season, assisted of course by Anderson-Dolan and Frk, who can’t seem to stop racking up points.
The goals continued in the second period, coming thick and fast as Luke Philp would make it 3-1 for the Heat before Vilardi cashed in with his second PPG of the game (adding another assist for Anderson-Dolan).
Just over a minute later, Rasmus Kupari scored his first goal of the season to make it 3-3. Teams traded goals in the final five minutes of the period to take it into the third period tied at 4 (Froese’s second of the weekend for the Heat, Samuel Fagemo on the power play for the Reign). Another equal third period, with goals from Petterson and Kupari for their second each of the game, sent this one into overtime, but eventually, it would be decided by a shootout.
Villalta had a heck of a weekend, facing 85 shots and only allowing seven goals. He faced 50 alone on Saturday, meaning that even with 5 goals allowed, he came out of it with a .900 SV%. With the loss of Garret Sparks earlier in the season, Villalta has been carrying the bulk of the work so far and seems more than up to the job.
Today in Stat Corner, let’s talk goaltending! Seems appropriate, after a monster weekend from starting goalie Matt Villalta, who went 1-0-0-1 on the weekend with a win and a shootout loss, and a SV% of .917. He’s been excellent for the Reign this season, going 15-3-3-1 with a .915 SV% and a GAA of 2.63. In 22 games, he’s allowed more than three goals only five times, going 1-1-3 in those games.
While Sparks is absent with seemingly no timetable to return, Villalta will get a lot of work in the back end of the season, and he’s going from strength to strength. While the Reign’s game plan seems to mostly be “outscore everyone else,” goaltending likely isn’t going to make or break this team, but having Villalta at 12th overall in league goaltending and third in the division behind only Dustin Wolf of Stockton and Logan Thompson of Henderson certainly can’t hurt.
King In The Inland Empire
Finally, TJ Tynan is being given his dues after another huge weekend. With two assists in each game, for a four-point weekend, he’s hanging with leading scorer Andrew Poturalski of Chicago, only five points back. He’s currently 19 points back of his career-high, set in the 18-19 season with Chicago, which he did in 71 games. With 29 games left in the Reign’s season, providing Tynan plays in all of them, he should easily surpass that with games to spare and could make a legitimate push at an above-100 point season. He’s absolutely my pick for MVP of the Reign this season and possibly the league as a whole.
The Reign are back in action on Monday night against the Bakersfield Condors. Ontario is a perfect 4-0 against the Condors this season, most recently winning 3-2 in overtime on January 2.
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