All quotes from Ontario Reign Insider.
Just a couple weekends ago, Ontario swept San Jose back-to-back to thwart Roy Sommer's quest to take Fred "Bun" Cook's career AHL wins record. Over the next week, locked in a back-to-back-to-back with the Barracuda, the Reign once again stand in the path of history, this time on "Pink in the Rink" night.
From the drop of the puck, the forecast pointed at another frosty night for Sommer, who had dropped seven of eight.
On his very first shift of the game, Adrian "Ferrari" Kempe blew by Bryan Lerg and Mark Cundari—from blueline to blueline in under three seconds—for an wrister in tight which Aaron Dell shouldered away. A couple minutes later, a Kurtis MacDermid look glanced off the post. Andrew Crescenzi and Jordan Samuels-Thomas, then Samuels-Thomas and Justin Auger enjoyed two-on-ones. All this just a little more than halfway into the period, as Ontario jumped ahead 9-1 shots.
Frankly, the hosts really didn't need any help, but Barclay Goodrow was all too willing, as he charged Jeff Schultz with about seven minutes to go in the opening frame. On the ensuing man advantage, Nic Dowd and Michael Mersch beat Julius Bergman and Karl Stollery to a loose Kevin Gravel shot. It was Big Mike's 17th of the season, "I think Dowder got a tip on it and the rebound popped right out to me."
After one, the Reign held a 15-4 shots advantage. Would San Jose keep deserting Dell in the second?
Dell would remain thirsty, as three consecutive Barracuda infractions kept the heat on.
About halfway into the middle frame, on one such Ontario power play, Auger slipped by Stollery in the corner to find Kris Newbury for a point-blank low slot blast. In fact, San Jose recorded its only shot of the entire period on this kill. A few minutes later, Paul Bissonnette sailed through napping sentries Goodrow and Gus Young to tip a Newbury shot-pass into Dell.
The visitors were (D)ella lucky to be down just one goal after two, considering they had been outshot 23-5. "If I remember right after two periods we had 12 shots from our defensemen, so that’s good," added Coach Mike Stothers. "We want to get those guys contributing." However, a Reign lack of finish would make for an exciting final frame.
After five shots in 40, the Barracuda surpassed that figure with six shots just five minutes into the third, aided by a MacDermid slash. This isn't to say that the hosts laid down like carpet, as Ontario's newly-constructed version of "Two Kids & an Old Goat," featuring Kempe, Jonny Brodzinski, and Newbury almost landed a killing blow: In front of Dell, Kempe touched the puck back to Brodzinski in the slot, who fired it off the beleaguered netminder's glove. Then a Samuels-Thomas entry led to an Auger tip and rebound that had Cundari on his knees.
Cundari's prayer was answered, as Aaron (Dell) delivered once again. San Jose kept battering the Reign net and with about three minutes left, Gravel had Trevor Parkes in slot, but Newbury chased the big winger too, leaving Ryan Carpenter then Goodrow for back-to-back-to-back stuffs. "Best of the night for Peter Budaj!" exclaimed Ontario play-by-play announcer Joey Zakrzewski.
But Reign rumbling, especially Mersch outmuscling Ben Smith behind the net to feed Dowd for a point-blank try, bashed any Barracuda comeback bid. Finally able to pull Dell with just under a minute remaining on the clock, it was too late for San Jose, Sommer, and any bubble gum pink teenage dreams. Well, too late for one night, as the Pacific rivals square off once again at 6 PM.
There, Budaj will try to extend his three straight, 180-minute shutout streak, which he started before the All-Star break. Stothers, as usual, had nothing but praise for his numero uno, "He hasn’t had much of a break with going to Syracuse and coming back and right back into the net. The concentration level on him is phenomenal."
Budaj, as usual, deflected credit, "Guys are working really hard. The system can be great but if the guys don’t work, nothing works."
See full game highlights at AHL Live.