All quotes from Ontario Reign Insider.
Having dropped eight of nine, would Roy Sommer's quest to break Fred "Bun" Cook's AHL wins record last the winter?
Unlike last night, the Barracuda swam out quick. Just three minutes into the tilt, a Vincent LoVerde-Ryan Horvat missed breakout eventually led to Paul Bissonnette, Joel Lowry, Kurtis MacDermid, and LoVerde converging on one Petter Emanuelsson at the blueline, and Ryan Carpenter free in front of Peter Budaj to pounce on the rebound. This marker snapped Budaj's 183 minute-plus shutout streak.
Just 51 seconds later, after a Nic Dowd high sticking, Ben Smith rifled it from the top left circle past a screened-by-John-McCarthy Budaj. Already down two just four minutes in, it was a cloudy start for Ontario, and perhaps, just perhaps an early spring for Sommer.
However, San Jose failed to capitalize on two additional first period power plays, and the hosts began to turn the beat around with just a couple minutes to go, as Andrew Crescenzi surged by a flat-footed Karl Stollery, testing Troy Grosenick and drawing a Stollery hook.
Regardless, Coach Mike Stothers wasn't a happy camper between periods. What did he say to the guys? "I thought for me I was very nice." Jonny Brodzinski offered, "It wasn’t great."
The Barracuda pushed ahead with a 13-7 shots lead after 20, but the Reign had the luxury of time. They didn't waste it, as just 42 seconds into the new period, Sean Backman crossed over Julius Bergman at the blueline, feeding Michael Mersch by himself on the side. Perhaps screened from the action by an entangled Dowd and Stollery, Grosenick was grossly out of position as Big Mike fired home his fifth in four games.
The 'Cuda were gasping for air. Just a minute later, a long Dowd bomb detonated off the post. Then, an Ontario pair (Kevin Gravel and Dowd) outfought a San Jose trio (Carpenter, Stollery, and Barclay Goodrow) in the corner, springing Backman for a shorthanded 3-on-1 that he pushed wide left. Shortly thereafter, MacDermid sideswiped another post.
With about four minutes left in the middle frame, Stollery made an ill-advised blueline pinch, and Kris Newbury, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, and Brodzinski were off for a three-on-two. Newbury saucered a gorgeous backhand pass through the slot, by Stollery and Bergman, for a twine-twisting, game-tying Brodzy one-timer.
Brodzinski credited Samuels-Thomas's work, "Puck got chipped up the wall. It was about head-high and [JST] batted it down out of the air, kicked it over to the middle."
Just 12 seconds later, a soft, aimless Gus Young backhand breakout, intercepted by Derek Forbort, resulted in Samuels-Thomas, Crescenzi, and Justin Auger outmuscling Carpenter, Emanuelsson, Gus Young, and Mirco Mueller down low. Auger wrested an improbable lead for the Reign when he cashed his own rebound.
Samuels-Thomas's impact was once again noted, this time by Auger, "I know JST got a whack at it, I got a whack at it and we were just swinging for it."
Heading into the locker room probably at least a little stunned, would the Barracuda have any bite left? About three minutes in, the visitors got a break, as Rick Pinkston, making his Pink in the Rink weekend debut, tripped Auger without whistle. Pinkston's shoulders slumped, and his infraction was crystal-clear even through AHL Live's muddy stream:
A couple minutes later, Carpenter outbattled Gravel behind the net, throwing it to Emanuelsson, who had shed Newbury and Brodzinski in the slot. Shortly thereafter, Goodrow had the stuff as Horvat lost him. Then with about four to go, Patrick McNally beat Brodzinski and MacDermid out of the corner to the net, Carpenter finding him for a bang-bang shot. In the ensuing chaos, MacDermid lost his stick, giving Emanuelsson free rein over a loose rebound. But in any case, Budaj was on the case.
So once again, Sommer would be left in the cold. And while it's said, "You come at the king, you best not miss," San Jose will get another shot at the defending champs this Wednesday.
Stothers was complimentary of his team's fortitude, "We don’t get discouraged. We got down one, we get down two, it’s not that big a deal. Still 40 minutes to play and that was the mindset going forward."
This was some "heart of a champion" stuff. "It’s something that we started last year and those that carry over for us this year, they bring that same attitude.
"You can tell yourself you’re tired, probably not as tired as you think. You can say you’re not playing very well, you’re not as good. But you’re not as bad as you think, it’s just a matter of persevering."