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Ontario Reign Update: Back to Winning

After a long losing streak to start the season, the Reign have finally begun to find the back of the net

Philadelphia Flyers v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

State of the Reign

Current Standings: 5-7-0-1, 11 points, 7th in the Pacific Division (out of 8)
Last Five Games: 3-1-0-1
Team Lead, Goals: Michael Mersch, 5 goals (13 GP)
Team Lead, Assists: TJ Hensick, 7 assists (13 GP)
Team Lead, Points: Michael Mersch, 11 points (13 GP)
Team Lead, Shots: Michael Mersch, 38 shots (13 GP)
Team Lead, Penalty Minutes: Keegan Iverson, 19 PIM (6 GP)

The last time we checked in with the Ontario Reign, things weren’t looking so good.

Now, I’m not going to take credit for their success since then, but the Reign appear to be starting to right the ship. After starting their season off with six consecutive losses, they went on a four-game point streak, dealt with several player recalls to the Kings, and finally got rookie goalie Cal Petersen his first professional win.

In the six-game stretch since we last wrote about the Reign, they’ve only faced two opponents: the San Jose Barracuda and the San Diego Gulls. Let’s take a look at what happened.

San Jose Barracuda

The Barracuda currently sit just two points ahead of the Reign in the standings, with a record of 6-7-0-1. The two teams meet again on Friday in Ontario in a match that, were the Reign to come away victorious, could mean that the Reign leapfrog them in the standings (the Reign would need to win their Wednesday night game and the Barracuda would have to lose theirs).

November 1, Barracuda @ Reign
Final Score: Reign 4, Barracuda 2
Reign Points: Jonny Brodzinski (3 G), Matt Luff (1 G), TJ Hensick (3 A), Kevin Gravel (1 A), Alex Lintuniemi (1 A), Michael Mersch (1 A)

Do you think Jonny Brodzinski was motivated after getting sent down to the Reign? I’d say so. His slow start with the Kings had him heading back to the AHL to gain some confidence and get the feel for the puck, and he certainly did just that. Despite only playing eight game with the Reign, Brodzinski currently sits second in total points (9), goals (4), and shots (36). He took an astounding nine shots on goal in this game alone. This game against the Barracuda was clearly his finest of the season; he only played three more games after that before being recalled by the Kings.

Highlights: Watch Jonny Brodzinski net his second career hat trick as the Reign take down the San Jose Barracuda 4-2

Posted by Ontario Reign on Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 18, Reign @ Barracuda
Final Score: Barracuda 1, Reign 0

This loss ended a five game point streak (four wins and one shoot-out loss) for the Reign. The first of two games in San Jose this past weekend, the Reign hung in there with shots on net (31 over the course of the game) but never could quite capitalize on their time spent in the Barracuda’s zone. The lone goal of the game was scored by rookie defenseman Jeremy Roy, gathering his first professional goal early in the second period with a shot that just snuck past Reign goalie Jack Campbell.

November 19, Reign @ Barracuda
Final Score: Reign 4, Barracuda 1
Reign Points: Matt Luff (2 G), Michael Mersch (1 G), Andrew Crescenzi (1 G), Kevin Gravel (2 A), Paul LaDue (2 A), TJ Hensick (1 A), Matt Roy (1 A),

After a hard-fought but goalless game the night before in San Jose, the Reign quickly righted the ship to get back on a winning path. Cal Petersen put on a stellar performance for the Reign, stopping 39 of 40 shots, including a harrowing second period where the Reign allowed 16 shots (while taking only five). Andrew Crescenzi, returned from his brief stint with the Kings, scored a goal, giving him three on the season.

San Diego Gulls

These two teams do not like each other. No way around it. They’ve faced off in the playoffs for two seasons in a row. Last year was a bit of revenge for the Gulls, earning the win over a Reign squad with a depleted goalie situation in the final game of the playoff series. Proximity and having two parent teams who also hate each other certainly helps fuel this rivalry. The Gulls are fifth in the Pacific currently, with a record of 7-7-1-0.

November 3, Reign @ Gulls
Final Score: Reign 1, Gulls 0
Reign Points: Philippe Maillet (1 G), TJ Hensick (1 A), Jonny Brodzinski (1 A)

Cal Petersen earned his first professional win against the Gulls, and got a shut-out to boot. The Reign made the night fairly easy on him, particularly in dominating the first period (14 shots to San Diego’s three). He turned away a total of 27 shots. The Reign’s only goal came on a 5-on-3 advantage, with Philippe Maillet getting set up for an easy tap-in goal.

November 4, Gulls @ Reign
Final Score: Gulls 4, Reign 3 (SO)
Reign Points: Michael Mersch (1 G, 1 A), Brett Sutter (1 G), Paul LaDue (1 G), Matt Luff (1 A), Sam Herr (1 A), Alex Lintuniemi (1 A), Jonny Brodzinski (1 A)

Hello, yes, please look at all the penalties taken in this game:

It looks like a Kings/Ducks game, really. Like father, like son, I guess.

The Reign fought back from a 2-0 deficit in the first period and put forth a tremendous effort to stay in the chase in this game. They briefly held a 3-2 lead in the second period off of Michael Mersch’s goal (scored on a Gulls turnover), but the Gulls tied it up again a few minutes later while on a power play. Despite the Reign’s pressure, they came up against a red-hot Reto Berra -- talk about a blast from the past, eh? -- who stopped all 41 shots, including four in an overtime period.

November 11, Reign @ Gulls
Final Score: Reign 4, Gulls 1
Reign Points: Andrew Crescenzi (2 G, 1 A), Jonny Brodzinski (1 G), Alex Lintuniemi (1 G), Michael Mersch (1 A), Zach Leslie (1 A), Stepan Falkovsky (1 A), Jamie Devane (1 A), Paul LaDue (1 A)

Unsurprisingly, this was another highly penalized affair, but despite the Reign’s time with the man advantage, all of their goals were scored at even strength. Andrew Crescenzi’s three-point night immediately preceded his call-up to the Kings; Crescenzi hasn’t been a prolific scorer in the AHL but has been a solid player nonetheless, so seeing him make an impact all over the scoresheet -- and get the call-up in recognition of his play -- was a nice moment.

Cal Petersen was strong in net again, although he didn’t have that much to do this time. The Gulls were limited to 12 shots total, including zero shots in the second period. That can’t even be ascribed to the Gulls spending a significant amount of time on the penalty kill; they were just utterly unable to sustain any pressure when they did have the puck.

A Few More Things

The Reign are at the bottom of the league in goals scored (26 goals) and tops in fewest goals allowed (32 goals). They’re remarkably disciplined, with the fewest amount of penalty minutes in the league (151).

Cal Petersen sits second in the AHL in goals against average, with 1.62, and in save percentage (0.939 Sv%), over nine games. He’s right behind Toronto’s Garret Sparks, who’s putting together a stellar year for the Marlies. Jack Campbell’s numbers aren’t quite as sparkling but he’s still 20th (out of 54 goalies who have played more than 300 minutes) with a 2.60 GAA.

If you’re into the idea of an outdoor game in winter, the Reign will take on Eisbären Berlin in what’s being billed as an “international frozen friendly” on February 13 in Ontario.

The Reign have also added forward Cory Ward on a PTO; Ward participated in the Reign’s training camp last year and has been playing with the Manchester Monarchs this season. Ward has gotten into one game so far; while with the Monarchs, he had 12 points in 14 games.

The Reign currently have a four-game homestand; they take on the Stockton Heat tomorrow and then welcome San Jose, San Antonio, and San Diego to round out their time in Ontario.