If the Kings have a problem generating offense and scoring goals, the Reign certainly don’t share that problem. Since the start of the AHL season they have had three of four games go to overtime or a shootout.
Following a 6-5 shootout loss to San Diego last Saturday, the Reign headed into this weekend preparing to play three games in four days.
Ontario Reign 4 - Milwaukee Admirals 5
A mid-week clash against the visiting Milwaukee Admirals (3-0-1) made for an exciting game that continued the trend of the past three games, with scores that sometimes make you wonder if you’re watching lacrosse or hockey. It was the type of game that fans and spectators love and coaches probably have mild heart attacks watching.
Within four minutes of the puck being dropped, Milwaukee had scored the first goal of the game, beating Cal Petersen short side. However, three minutes later the Reign responded with goals from Matt Luff and Sean Walker spaced a minute apart.
Throughout the game, the Reign looked better defensively than they had in previous games, while still generating chances. However, they still struggled with making clean breakout passes and zone exits, as the aggressive Milwaukee forecheck forced them to attempt high risk passes in order to break out. During the second, Milwaukee added two more goals bringing the score to 3-2. One could feel some sympathy for the Reign goaltender as at times it looked like the defense had checked out for the night leaving him high and dry.
The third period was marked by more of the same but Matt Moulson was able to get one past the Admirals goalie early in the period, and Mikey Eyssimont added another late in the period. Milwaukee would notch their fourth at 14:41 of the third, eventually sending the game in to overtime.
Halfway through the bonus hockey, and as the Reign continued to struggle to clear the puck from their own zone, Nicholas Baptiste jumped on the loose puck and walked in on Petersen scoring low to the far side with a quick snap shot.
The Reign ended the game with 48 shots on net, a combined 19 penalty minutes, 1/6 on the power play, and a .848 save percentage.
Key points of discussion:
- Cal Petersen isn’t having a great start to the season. While most of the goals are not his fault, he, up until now, isn’t looking like the same guy who earned an all-star spot in his first season.
- Sean Walker ended the game with 12 shots on goal, 8 more than the next leading players (Roy, Etem, & Eyssimont each had 4).
Ontario Reign 2 - Colorado Eagles 6
The first of two games in Loveland, Colorado this weekend where the Reign would take on the Eagles, fresh off of their back to back Kelly Cup championships in the ECHL prior to promotion to the AHL this year. The game started and it was quickly apparent that the Eagles’ speed and skill would be problematic for the Reign.
Peter Budaj, who had just returned to the AHL after a short stint with the big club, got the nod to start in net. 4:33 of the first period, Logan O’Connor got the puck in the high slot and ripped it past Budaj. From there things went from bad to worse, as the Reign, try as they might, had difficulty with the same issues that have plagued them all season long. The Eagles would put three more past Budaj bringing the score to 4-0. Interestingly, after the fourth goal, Budaj looked to the bench expecting or looking to be pulled, but was left in the game until the end of the period.
To start the second period, Cal Petersen came in to replace Peter Budaj, who ended the night stopping 12 of 16 shots for a save percentage of .750. Throughout the second, the two teams traded chances, but the speed of the Eagles continued to give the Reign defense fits. One bright point for the Reign was that they were able to put twelve shots on net. Matt Roy was able to pick up the loose puck and bury it past Pavel Francouz. On the other end of the ice, the Eagles were able to put two past Petersen despite his best efforts.
The final stanza was more of the same, but the Reign did look better offensively as they fired 15 shots on goal. One of those, was tucked home via wrap around by Mikey Eyssimont, for his fourth goal of the year. The Reign ended the game with 35 shots on net, a combined 15 penalty minutes, 0/6 on the power play, and a .909 save percentage for Petersen who stopped 20 of 22 shots over two periods.
Following the game, Coach Stothers spoke candidly about the defensive play: “We need to work on it as a group and make it a priority. We have proven in the early going that we can’t get into a track meet with other teams.”
Points of discussion:
- Budaj was chased from the net in the first period and seemed to throw in the towel after the fourth goal.
- This team reminds me more and more of their parent club, while the players are obviously talented, the trend in the league is to move to speed and skill over the heavy brand of hockey the Kings organization is known for.
Ontario Reign 3 - Colorado Eagles 5
The game on Saturday picked up right where the previous one had left off. The Reign looked a little more energized than they had to start the game on Friday, but again the speed and skill of the Eagles continued to be problematic. Cal Petersen was called on to start the game and performed admirably. Throughout the first two periods he only let in two goals. The second was a hard wrister from the faceoff circle but Petersen was unable to see it, as he was being screened.
The Reign finally came to life as a loose puck fell to Sean Walker in the slot, and he buried it in the back of the net with 3:39 gone in the third. Walker would get his second goal of the game after he flung the puck on net, and it took a nasty deflection off of a Eagles player and past his own goaltender, making the game 2-2.
It was short-lived, however, as the Eagles would retake the lead with 8:59 gone in the period. To add insult to injury, a botched breakout pass would lead to a quick turn over and goal for the Eagles at 16:43.
A valiant attempt by the Reign lead to a Brad Morrison goal at 18:35 when he connected with a beautiful cross-ice pass that blasted the puck past the Eagles goalie before he could get a touch to it. With the goalie pulled, the Reign would continue to pour on the pressure, but the Eagles would finish the game with an empty net goal at 18:56.
The Reign ended the game with 25 shots on net, a combined 48 penalty minutes, 0/2 on the power play, and a .907 save percentage for Petersen who stopped 39 of 43 shots over two periods.
Points of discussion:
- The Reign are the most penalized team in the league and it is a worrying trend as the team racked up 49 penalty minutes including two 10-minute misconduct penalties.
- Sean Walker had himself quite a night with two goals, one assist, and seven shots. He’s starting to become the main offensive threat from the blue line. Coach Stothers spoke highly of Walker in his postgame interview, stating “[he] is a factor in our end, as well as the opposition end. Becoming a dominant player in this league…”
- Cal Petersen looked much better tonight that he has the last few nights and while the GAA still remains high he appeared much calmer in net despite the high volume of shots thrown at him.
First, my apologies for the length of this, three games are a lot to recap. Watching the games, I was reminded of the Kings of a few years ago playing the archetypal Kings brand of hockey, but it was quickly exposed by the aggressive Admirals who countered with an aggressive forecheck, and by the speedy and skilled Eagles. The offense doesn’t seem to be the issue, however, defensively the team needs some work. In a developmental league such as the AHL, it’s understandable to have growing pains, but one hopes they figure it out sooner rather than later. The Reign head back to SoCal to face the Tucson Roadrunners next Friday, in the lone game of the coming week.
Go Kings, Go Reign.