ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign finally dropped the puck on their 2021-22 season this past weekend, facing two different teams on back-to-back nights. There were many things to like from both games, so let’s take a look back on the weekend.
The Reign got the season started on the right foot Saturday night by notching a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Gulls.
The obvious standout for this game was Martin Frk. He (and his spectacular mustache) scored the first two goals of the season (including a power-play tally) and had a further three shots on goal.
Martin Frk – The Rocket Man pic.twitter.com/EkjSZFVocM
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) October 17, 2021
The other goals came from Jacob Moverare, Samuel Fagemo, and Aidan Dudas, which were even strength, empty net, and power-play goals, respectively. Moverare would add an assist, and TJ Tynan also started the season strong with two helpers.
However, the worry with this team is not offense. As mentioned in last week’s season preview, the Reign were second in the league in goal scoring last season. The problem with last season’s team was defense, as they finished last in the league in that regard.
Matt Villalta made 22 of 24 saves, allowing only two goals (one PPG from Jacob Perrault and one from Vinni Lettieri with only 12 seconds left in regulation). We know the Reign can score goals, but this goaltending, plus the fact that they outshot the Gulls 31 to 24, is a good start in this young season. Villalta and Jacob Ingham are promising young goalie prospects. If Ontario can limit other teams to 25 shots or less, it only makes their job easier.
One area that the Reign needs to be better in is discipline. They only took three minor penalties, but they also added two 10 minute misconducts on top of that to finish out the third period. Sean Durzi, in particular, needs to be better, taking two of the three minors before adding a misconduct for “continuing altercation.”
Overall, it was a solid opening game, where the Reign established their identity as a team that can and will score a lot of goals.
My advice? Take the over on scoring for an Ontario Reign game this season.
The Reign could not continue their winning ways for game two and lost 3-2 in a shootout.
After chasing the Gulls back to San Diego on Saturday, the Reign geared up for their first-ever game against the Abbotsford Canucks. It was a much more tightly contested game than their victory over the Gulls, and after a late penalty kill kept the game tied, they looked to be deciding the game via overtime. Then, when that didn’t work, it would be a four-round shootout to award the win to the Canucks.
The game was a back-and-forth affair. All four regulation goals came in the second period, as the Canucks opened the scoring with a PPG from Danila Klimovich. However, the Reign quickly tied the game at one with Alex Turcotte’s first of the season (assisted by Tynan, giving him three assists in two games to lead the team in scoring).
Phil Di Guiseppe of the Canucks made it a 2-1 game in favor of the Canucks, but the Reign once again equalized with a PPG of their own from Brayden Burke. Frk, the star of Saturday’s game, did not find the scoresheet but was noticeable all game, leading the team with six shots and almost getting the go-ahead goal at the end of the third period. Also, his mustache was still spectacular.
That 'stache on @Frky91 pic.twitter.com/9bnlEy8DHn
— The Mayor (@mayorNHL) October 17, 2021
After a great performance from Villalta on Saturday, Sunday was Ingham’s turn, and he didn’t disappoint, making 28 of 30 saves as the Reign once again outshot their opponents. He allowed one goal in the shootout, which would turn out to be the winner, but overall, it was a strong weekend for the Reign goaltenders.
Ontario was also much more disciplined in this game, taking only two minor penalties. However, having allowed two PPG on five attempts, it’s fair to say that the penalty kill needs to be much better.
Overall, it was a good weekend for the Reign. Three out of four points is a strong start, and getting a win against their rivals in San Diego is never a bad thing. Hopefully, they can continue this play into next week and the rest of the season.
The Reign return to action on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 7:00 p.m. when they, once again, face Abbotsford at Toyota Arena.
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