'Twas the tilt before Christmas, when all through the Vault...
Were the Reign or the Condors ready for the start of tonight's game? Can't say, but the refs certainly were, as they nabbed the home team for three minors just eight minutes in:
1) Valentin Zykov for High Sticking, 1:29
2) Scott Sabourin for Cross-checking, 5:07
3) Scott Sabourin for Interference, 7:55
Ontario flexed its penalty killing muscles from the opening PK though, as Andrew Crescenzi jumped a Joey LaLeggia breakout for a failed 2-on-1 with Sean Backman. That set the tempo for the night, as more often than not, even when shorthanded, the Reign beat the Condors to the puck.
However, all these whistles led to a disturbance in the flow, as Ontario didn't record its first ES chance until about four minutes left in the first, when Jonny Brodzinski bullied Andrew Miller off the slot for a shot that Ben Scrivens fought off. However, the zebras brayed again before the horn:
4) Kevin Raine for elbowing, 17:37
Impressively, after 20 minutes, Ontario held a 5-4 shots edge, despite four Bako power plays. Would there be some make-ups a-callin'?
Well, you can't say the refs didn't try:
5) Marc-Olivier Roy for Boarding, 1:47
However, they had no choice but to blow the whistle a minute later:
6) Andrew Crescenzi for High Sticking, 2:59
In this brief man advantage, the Condors approached the Reign blueline like middle school boys at their first dance. And when they finally managed to gain the zone, the 5'10" Miller was once again pushed around, as the 5'8" Backman outbattled him on the boards for the clear. The black and white infractions kept coming though, as MacDermid missed a big hit on Kale Kessy in the neutral zone, and strained to catch up:
7) Kurtis MacDermid for Hooking, 6:06
8) Justin Auger for Boarding, 6:48
Miller once again came through for Ontario, as he slashed away the 5-on-3:
9) Andrew Miller for Slashing, 7:06
And true to his name, Anton Slepyshev, on gaining the zone during the ensuing 4v3, made a lazy drop pass that Dowd jumped for an easy clear, then Brad Hunt went wide on back-to-back point shots from the top of the circles. After six power plays, Bakersfield had managed just eight shots on goal for the whole game; it's worth noting that they came in as the fourth-best PP unit in the AHL. This paved the way for some Reign alone time with the man advantage, as Auger chugged out of the box for a breakaway:
10) Matthew Ford for Slashing, 9:05
Crescenzi had the best opportunity, but it was a low-percentage backhand from off The Professor's side. Then, a freed Ford beat Vincent LoVerde down the ice, and the captain was forced into prevent mode:
11) Vincent LoVerde for Hooking, 11:14
Finally, the Condors feasted on the man advantage, as Ford deflected a Hunt knuckler past Peter Budaj.
Up to this point, I'd say the refs had been calling what they had to. But about 30 seconds later, Mitch Moroz went down "hurt." In fairness, MacDermid certainly completed the offending motion:
12) Kurtis MacDermid for Cross-checking, 11:57
Moroz didn't miss a shift, while the Ontario PK didn't miss a beat, as Bakersfield barely set up. Then a few minutes later, the Moroz-Bogdan Yakimov-Slepyshev line victimized MacDermid again, as Yakimov felt the 6'5" defender in his numbers and went down hard. Once again, the Reign were shaking their heads, but the numbers were showing:
13) Kurtis MacDermid for Boarding, 16:50
Schultz's stick disrupted a Miller entry and David Musil pass, so it was another punchless Condors effort. And I think, after all this Ontario hospitality, Bakersfield must have been feeling a little guilty:
14) Served by Marc-Olivier Roy, Too Many Men, 19:51
10 minor penalties were called in the second period. 10. Yet shots were knotted up 15 apiece, a testament to Ontario's kill and Bakerfield's killing of themselves. Backman noted, "Killing penalties takes a lot out of a team, but sometimes on the other hand, you can feed off your kill and if your kill’s doing well, you can feed off that energy."
Refs get the loudest boo I've heard in a long time as they return to the ice.— Bill Norris (@OntReignInsider) December 21, 2015
The Reign frittered away this early third period man advantage, but they found some legs for even strength. About five minutes in, Auger set a pick on Jordan Oesterle, allowing Nick Ebert to seize the line with speed, and Bako lost Joel Lowry:
Moroz noticed the free winger too late, while I'm still not sure what Braden "Disconnected Xbox" Controller/Christoffer was doing. It was Lowry's first pro tally. "The goal was just a great play by Ebs," the rookie said, flashing a smile after the game. "I was just driving the dot lane hoping for a pass on the far pad, and he kind of beat his guy and found me on the far side. Didn’t have to really do too much, just put it in the empty net."
But alas, 5v5 paradise was swiftly lost, as Moroz-Yakimov-Slepyshev drew another call when they crashed the net for Bakersfield's first ES chances of the frame:
15) Vincent LoVerde for Hooking, 9:18
Budaj was tested—nay, just quizzed—on this brief power play, but once again, the visitors couldn't bear to take advantage of such graciousness from their hosts:
16) Matthew Ford for Hooking, 9:45
After this, Ontario squelched most any opposing rally, and actually slapped Scrivens with some ES chances. Backman had a 2-on-1 bid warded off with about seven to play. A few minutes later, Kevin Gravel from the left circle went cross-ice to Dowd, who made a SCSU triangle with a touch pass for a Brodzinski slot one-timer. Brodzinski led the team with eight shots—the Reign notched 26 for the game—aided by a Condors squad that was now surrendering chances as if they were down a goal.
It was Scrivens who dragged his teammates into overtime, but it was Scrivens who lost it too, as just 21 seconds in, a long Backman blast eluded him. Did the Ontario star see an opening? "Just trying to get it on net. Not a lot of chances tonight and last night, we didn’t have any shots in overtime and Stutts made an emphasis on getting the puck to the net in overtime."
Coach Mike Stothers was in a more cheerful mood than last night's postgame. "First of all, you can’t blame every single penalty we took on the referees. That’s just asinine to even think that. Some of them they clearly deserved." In the spirit of the holiday, he then held his tongue. "I’m not going to give money to the league. It’s a development league, for us and for the officials. I guess I’ll cut them some slack and just leave it as that."