The Reign headed to colder climates this past weekend, squaring off against the Grand Rapids Griffins and Milwaukee Admirals. This was the first of two meetings against the Griffins this year, and the second and final game against the Admirals this season. The previous meeting between the Admirals and Reign ended in a 4-5 OT loss for the Reign.
The Reign headed into the weekend with a record of 4-5-3, after splitting the spoils evenly with the Stockton Heat last weekend, winning one of two fixtures against Stockton.
Ontario Reign (4) - Grand Rapids Griffins (3)
The game started poorly as most of the crowd had yet to take their seats before the Griffins opened the scoring just seven seconds into the period, when a lofted pass found Chris Terry, who split the Reign defense and buried the puck in the back of the net. Despite the disappointing start, the Reign rallied and played well for the rest of the game. While the Griffins would add another midway through the second, the Reign responded with four straight goals, with one late in the second, and three more in the third.
Matt Moulson would have a particularly good night with two goals from five shots on net. Not a bad way to mark your 900th professional game. Sean Walker would also be amongst the goal scorers, making him the highest scoring defenseman on the roster.
With four minutes left in the game, and with their goalie pulled, the Griffins would add another goal, bringing the game to 4-3, but would fail to register another before the period expired.
Ontario ended the game with 25 shots on net, a combined 10 penalty minutes, going 3/5 on the power play, and a .880 save percentage.
Ontario Reign (1) - Milwaukee Admirals (2)
Following the game in Michigan, the Reign would make their way through the cold to Milwaukee to face the Admirals. In perhaps their best defensive performance this season, the Reign would hold Milwaukee to just 17 shots on goal throughout the game. Issues still exist in the defensive end that need sorting out, in particular clearing the crease and making clean zone exits. This, however, is a small issue in comparison to the defensive issues that plagued the team earlier in the season.
The Admirals scored midway through the first period off of a broken play in the neutral zone, which lead to a turnover, and quickly turned in to a 2-on-1. A slick cross-crease pass was tipped in by Eeli Tolvanen past the sliding net-minder on the blocker side
The score would remain 1-0 for the duration of the middle period, despite the Reign having three power play chances. Sean Walker and Sheldon Rempal, in particular, were exemplary on the power play creating several chances thanks to some smart movement and quick passing around the zone. Walker led the team in shots with six, followed closely by Rempal who tallied with five shots on goal. Rempal currently leads the team in scoring with 15 points (6G, 9A) in 11 games.
Forty-five seconds in to the third period, Austin Wagner would redirect a slap-pass from Phillipe Malliet past Troy Grosenick, making the score 1-1. Unfortunately, a minute later Milwaukee would regain the lead after a scramble in front of Charles Williams resulted in the loose puck being tucked in to the back of the net by Connor Brickley. The Reign would apply pressure looking for the equalizer, but it was not forthcoming, and the game ended 2-1 in favor of the Admirals.
Ontario ended the game with 25 shots on net, a combined 10 penalty minutes, going 0/5 on the power play, and a .882 save percentage.
Facing two of the better teams in the Central Division was a good litmus test for the Reign. They acquitted themselves well and were not outplayed by either opponent. While they are still a work in progress, there has been improvement since the beginning of the season. As I’ve said before, in the AHL, it’s about development more than it is results, although results are nice. As long as the prospects who will one day attempt to crack the Kings’ lineup continue to improve, then it can be considered a positive.
The Reign return to SoCal to face the San Diego Gulls in a pre-Thanksgiving match on Wednesday, in San Diego, and then back home to Ontario take on the Bakersfield Condors on Friday and the Tucson Roadrunners on Sunday.
Go Kings, Go Reign.