[EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was submitted by one of our readers — username HockeySk8er — who attended the Ontario Reign game on Saturday night. -Eric]
Last night's AHL game between the Ontario Reign and the San Jose Barracuda was host to a strange but cool scene. 22-year-old Jonah Imoo started in goal. That alone is unexpected three games into the year, given his unique lack of professional experience. But his backup and their connection was what really turned heads. Dusty Imoo, Jonah's 46-year old father and the goaltending coach of the Reign, served as an emergency back-up. This appears to be the first time that a father-son combo suited up together in goalie gear in professional hockey.
Reign fans seemed to enjoy the unique story playing out but were probably unsure about their team's chances. Imoo could have been lit up. No one expected him to perform anywhere near as well as Peter Budaj or Jack Campbell. The result was somewhere in between.
Imoo allowed five goals on 31 shots, the last coming on a breakaway in 3-3 overtime. Two of the goals came on the power play. The Barracuda's shot advantage was not completely representative of who outplayed who, because they were firing pucks early and often. The game plan seemed to be shoot from everywhere with bodies in front of the net.
Analyzing Imoo's performance more deeply, he showed good fundamentals and flashes of potential but also lacked the ability to fully read all situations in front of him; sometimes, he was half a second off in his timing and reactions. He probably would have liked to have the third goal back and maybe one of the second or the fourth but he made multiple saves on high-danger scoring chances. He deserves to be analyzed as a legitimate minor league goalie, but he is probably no more than a mediocre one at this point.
Putting aside his playing performance and the result of the game, it was special to see two black and white Imoo jerseys on the ice and bench. During timeout stoppages Jonah would often head to the end of the bench and confer with his dad. It seemed like they were all business, but they must have enjoyed this special experience.
The realities of professional hockey suggest Jonah Imoo may not be in a Reign uniform in a few weeks, let alone starting for them. But he showed enough tonight and in the past month to keep the door open and earn a full-time spot on the team. No matter what happens, he has experienced something in hockey that almost all have not— he reached the pinnacle of the game's bond between father and son.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Reign today added Troy Redmann, an ECHL veteran who played in Ontario from 2012-14, on a PTO. Dusty Imoo will return to coaching, which must be a relief.]
As for the rest of the team: the Reign looked above average. They were outshot 31-15 but San Jose had five power plays and was testing Imoo regularly. The Reign's ability to score four goals was impressive. More impressive was that their goals often answered a SJ one minutes before. It would have been easy for the skaters to get down on their goalie but they kept pushing and forced OT.
Patrick Bjorkstrand stood out on the score sheet. His three points earned him first-star recognition but a lot of Reign players made quieter positive impacts on the game. Trotman, LoVerde, Mersch and Backman elevated their play in the face of adversity. Trotman especially was a strong presence on the back end and looked like he could step into the NHL right away.
The Barracuda were fairly loaded. Mueller and Goldobin are highly touted prospects and will probably be seeing real NHL playing time soon. Goodrow, Labanc, Heed and Carpenter are also pushing the boundaries of AHL skill. The Reign will not face too many teams with multiple highly touted prospects and the depth that SJ has.