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Welp...Back to the Drawing Board

The Reign Report

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Ontario Reign looked to stop the bleeding following a disappointing weekend in Colorado returning to Ontario, CA to face the Tucson Roadrunners in their only game of the week. Ontario (1-3-3) looked to snap a five-game losing streak, while the visiting Roadrunners are coming off of a two-game series against the Rockford IceHogs and currently sit second in the Pacific Division with a record of 4-1-1.

Ontario Reign (5) - Tucson Roadrunners (8)

Under the Friday night lights of the Citizens Business Bank Arena the game started badly for Ontario, as just 24 seconds in to the game a pass from behind the net fell to David Ullstrom of Tucson who fired it home past a sliding Cal Petersen. In true Warner Bros. fashion things would escalate from bad to worse very quickly as Tucson would put two more goals past Petersen in five minutes, bring the score to 3-0 with six minutes gone in the first period.

With that, Petersen’s night was over, Coach Stothers electing to replace the struggling goaltender with Peter Budaj. Petersen for his part had stopped just two of five shots during his time between the pipes. Alex Lintuneimi would get one back for Ontario with 15:32 gone in the first period, but the Roadrunners would regain their three goal advantage with 2:16 left in the period.

Throughout the second period Ontario and Tucson would exchange goals with Emerson Etem netting his first of the year for the Reign, and Matt Luff burying a hard shot past Tucson net minder Adin Hill on a breakaway. Peter Budaj looked solid throughout the night, but his valiant efforts were not enough to keep Tucson from responding with three goals of their own, finishing the period with score of 7-4.

The final period would follow the same script of the first two stanzas. Matt Luff would add his second goal of the game on a shorthanded chance. Zach Mitchell would get his second of the year while on the power play, returning to the lineup this weekend after missing the previous weekend due to injury. Tucson’s Matteo Gennaro would net his third of the game with 5:40 left to complete his hat trick.

Ontario ended the game with 27 shots on net, a combined 18 penalty minutes, going 1/4 on the power play, and a .795 save percentage (combined).

Points of discussion:

  • Slow starts to the game: A worrying trend that has become prevalent throughout the last few games, the Reign take a few minutes to get going. By the time the team warmed to the task of playing the game they were already three goals behind. After the game Coach Stothers spoke on that topic, stating his frustration: “…we’ve got to find a way to stop making it so hard on ourselves. It’s hard enough to win in this league to begin with. It’s not like we mean to do that, it just happens and it’s a part of the process.”
  • Defense: While there was some improvement to the breakouts and zone exits, the team in general looked slow to the puck and lack luster in their desire to compete. If there was a summary of what this looked like I guess it would have to be this:

I’ll let you surmise which character the Reign played.

  • Goaltending: Both Cal Petersen and Peter Budaj are having terrible starts to the season. Petersen has played seven games posting a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 4.78 and a Save Percentage (SV%) of .863, while Budaj has played just three games for the Reign with a GAA of 6.16 and a SV% .825. While the blame can’t be placed entirely on the goalies, as a large factor in the success of a goalie is determined by the success of the defense, it is still indicative of the problems facing this club.

Manchester Monarchs News

In Manchester, NH, home of the King’s ECHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs have started the season with a record of 2-3-1, and currently sit sixth in the North Division, at the time of writing. Two stories of note for Manchester so far, have been the play of Austin Strand who scored in his first game with the Monarchs and continues to impress. Meanwhile goaltending prospect Cole Kehler got his first start in net for the club against the Maine Mariners on Wednesday, dropping the contest 4-3 stopping 28 of 31 shots for .900 SV%.

Final thoughts

I understand the need for patience, as the Reign have a very young squad that is still adjusting to the rigors of playing in the AHL. However, with eight games now completed it worrying that the same mistakes and concerns keep rearing their ugly head in each game. The concern is not just for the Reign but ultimately the Kings as well. The Reign will have just under a week until their next game on Thursday against the Texas Stars, and Saturday against rival San Diego.

Go Kings, Go Reign.