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Reign Recap #11: No Holiday for Ontario PK

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The Reign pull out a squeaker, nudged ahead by a Sean Backman snipe

Sheng Peng

Sporting some sharp Veterans Day camo-duds, Ontario took on San Jose in a Veteran's Day clash.

[Box Score]

Both teams had good jump to begin, trading chances. Jonny Brodzinski had an in-tight backhand denied by Aaron Dell, while a "San Jose bounce" off an Ontario shot block led to a Jeremy Langlois screamer from the slot.

Halfway through the opening frame, it was Brodzinski again...and again. On the same shift, he fed Crescenzi for a left circle wrister from below the dots, and then, the same pair took advantage of a far too aggressive Vincent Arseneau forecheck, as they advanced on a 2-on-1. Dell stood tall both times, but it was promising work for the AHL rookie who's still looking for his first professional goal.

Finally, Kurtis MacDermid fired a bullet from the middle of the blueline, which zipped through a host of camo and teal to the top left corner. It was this AHL rookie's first pro goal. "That was a heck of a shot," Coach Mike Stothers said, before pointing out with a chuckle that it was MacDermid's partner, Vincent LoVerde, who provided a screen in front, "It’s a good thing we scored on that one because it could have been a potential problem."

Ontario started taking hold of play, as Michael Mersch and Nic Dowd forced a Gus Young turnover from behind the net, and Mersch set up Valentin Zykov for a point-blank opportunity.

All this culminated with a Sean Backman marker with a minute left in the period. Justin Auger was able to put a stick on an attempted breakout by defender Joakim Ryan at the boards, and Adrian Kempe followed up, drawing two San Jose players as he hurtled toward the net. The Barracuda forgot about Backman, who was hanging out in the wheelhouse by himself"I had a lot of time to put it where I want," Backman said.

While San Jose was being outshot 11-5 when the horn blew, they definitely had their chances, as Ontario only had a 6-4 even strength scoring chances edge.  The middle frame would prove more fruitful for the Barracuda.

A couple minutes in, John McCarthy was behind the net when he dished it to Nikita Jevpalovs, who was waiting in a soft spot between Kevin Raine and Backman, for a point blank chance.

Then, after Scott Sabourin failed to advance the puck past center ice, the Barracuda hemmed the Reign down for about a minute. Stothers called this minute "excruciatingly long for a coach because usually what happens is you either get scored on or take a penalty." But somehow, with a frentic scrum in front of him, Budaj's left pad shot out to stop Trevor Parkes in the slot.

Dell immediately countered with some left pad magic of his own, as he stonewalled a streaking Mersch off a beautiful cross-ice, against-the-flow feed from Dowd.

But halfway in, San Jose was finally able to put one past their Slovakian nemesis. Langlois, who also notched the game-winner in the Barracuda's win over Ontario two weekends ago, cut across the slot, beating MacDermid one on one, then Budaj top shelf.

The Reign, as they've done so often, came back strong, pinning San Jose in their own zone on multiple occasions. The Barracuda reacted by taking a timeout with three minutes left. As it was in the first, Ontario took control to close out a period. Shots were Ontario 19-10.

It was a quiet start to the opposition's purported comeback in the third. But the first quality chance of the periodfrom Ontario's Andrew Crescenzialso became a San Jose man advantage opportunity, as the overzealous centerman bowled over Dell on his partial break. But the Barracuda had no bite.

An Ontario power play that followed was equally toothless. That said, the Reign's defensive effort was exemplary, as by my reckoning, San Jose didn't record their first even strength chance of the final frame until about seven minutes left.

Ultimately, the Reign were nothing if not generous. With a little less than four to go, they took a too many men on the ice penalty, then Mersch struck Bryan Lerg with a high stick to give the Barracuda over a minute on the two-man advantage.

But alas, it was not to be San Jose's night. A telegraphed pass from Lerg back to the point was tipped out by Crescenzi. Dylan DeMelo responded by falling on an attempted carry-in through the neutral zone. Then Ryan Carpenter's bid from the slot was blocked by Jeff Schultz.

By now, the Barracuda were spent, and Ontario was able to escape with a 2-1 victory. Stothers took the long view afterwards.

"Overall, I liked our game much better tonight than I did the other night in Stockton as far as our turnovers and our decisions. I mean, our work ethic has never really left us, so I’m happy about that. Again, you can’t be too critical and you can’t be too hard on the guys. They’re working hard, they’re trying, they’re young. There’s mistakes that are going to happen, and if we weather them now, perhaps we’ll be better later on in the season when we need to be."