The Stockton Heat spoiled a three-goal first period for the Ontario Reign last night, walking away with a 5-4 victory just 46 seconds into overtime. It was another high-scoring affair for the Reign, who are averaging 3.67 goals per game, but the young team wasn’t able to hold onto their lead, surrendering two goals in the last ten minutes of the game to allow the Heat to tie it up.
Sheldon Rempal tallied two goals, his second and third of the season. For Rempal, his goal scoring is all about confidence, and he’s starting to regain some of that after the initial disappointment of being assigned to the AHL “With the player that I am, I think I have to be confident to be good,” Rempal said. “It’s tough coming in, as a first year player, first year pro. Everything’s new and everything’s different.”
Rempal has been playing with Zach MItchell and Brent Sutter, two experienced veterans who have been able to help Rempal settle down his game in the early days of the season. Rempal comes to the Kings’ system after two years at Clarkson, and his biggest focus right now, aside from building up his confidence, is the physical aspect of the game. Another smaller player, listed at 5’10”, Rempal said one of the biggest adjustments has been handling the size of players and learning to find open ice where he can.
Defenseman Kale Clague showed off the offensive instincts that helped him dominate in the WHL as he opened up scoring for the Reign with a first period power play goal. The tally was his first at the professional level. Clague also tallied two assists on the evening. “Obviously, it feels good to get my first pro goal,” Clague said, but it was tough to not come away with both points in the home opener.
The adjustment to pro hockey has been about speed and strength for Clague, who’s listed at 6’ and 177 pounds. “It’s different. Pro hockey is definitely a man’s game. Down low, guys are much bigger and stronger. You’ve got to play fast, especially at my size.” Clague drew praise from head coach Mike Stothers after the game for being able to bounce back and improve in his play after some rough preseason outings. With the Reign, Clague said he wants to work on cleaning up his play in the defensive zone and defending off the rush. He played with much more confidence than we saw from in in the preseason. As he improves, looks for him to continue to earn more minutes on the Reign’s blue line to show off his skill with the puck.
Stothers spoke glowingly about his his team afterwards, despite the loss. “The end result isn’t exactly the way it should have been drawn up,” Stothers told media. “If you look at what we created, what we did, we were good offensively. We made some good plays. We’ve still got to shore up a little bit defensively, but I think there’s a lot to work with.” As always, Stothers sees his main goal as developing players who can go to the NHL, and he he has even more skill and speed to work with this year as more Kings prospects reach the AHL.
Cal Petersen recorded 33 saves. Matt Luff led the Reign with six shots on goal. The Reign, who are currently 1-1-1 on the season, take on their frequent rival, the San Diego Gulls, tonight in Ontario at 6:00 pm. The Gulls are looking for their first win of the season.