On Nickelodeon Night celebrating the Legends of the Hidden Temples, it was the Ontario Reign who managed to put the entire monkey together and retrieve the valuable item (in this case, two points) within the set time parameters.
Early in the first period, a Temple Guard (referee) caught Julius Bergman for hooking, who, unfortunately, didn’t have a Pendant of Life as Michael Mersch wasted very little time in scoring a power play goal. But because this is the Reign and they’re very much like their parent club the Los Angeles Kings, a couple minutes later, the Temple Guards caught Austin Wagner for tripping and then Sam Herr shortly thereafter for hooking. But both had life pendants as Ontario escaped without giving up a goal on either penalty.
This is actually quite a remarkable feat as Ontario’s penalty kill is 24th worst in the league at a remarkable 81.2%. Their power play, on the other hand, is red hot, coming in fifth overall, converting on 20.2% of opportunities. For what it’s worth, the Barracuda’s PK ranks 16th overall, killing 83.1% of power plays.
Back to the game. Around the halfway mark of the period, the Temple Guards caught Philippe Maillet for boarding, though his life pendant came in handy again as the Reign did not yield a goal.
Kyle Bauman (yeah, I have no idea who he is, either) scored his first goal of the season in his third career pro game. But just 90 seconds later, Brandon Mashinter answered for the Barracuda. Not content to let the Cuda get too close, Mersch helped set up Matt Moulson to restore the two-goal lead. If you’re keeping track, that’s three goals in two minutes and 26 seconds.
The first period ended with the Reign up in goals 3-1 but down in shots 16-9. This happens when you take three penalties in 20 minutes and have an awful penalty kill (but shout out to Cal Petersen for holding down the fort while his team was down a man).
Early in the middle frame, the Barracuda scored to get within one. Things were fairly even to that point but an ugly turnover in the neutral zone led to an Emerson Clark breakaway.
San Jose pressed for an equalizer but never managed to find it. A short time later, Mersch and Kurtis MacDermid took exception to Colby McCauley firing the puck into the net after the whistle, causing a kerfuffle in the corner. It took a while for the Temple Guards to assess how many runners needed to give up their Pendants of Life but in the end, Ontario came away with a 5-on-3 advantage, much to the disagreement of Blue Barracuda fans in attendance.
Maillet initially missed an open net but quickly redeemed himself and scored on the power play. The Reign were unable to capitalize on the second part of their advantage but had restored their two-goal lead. Almost immediately, Caleb Herbert got called for slashing and fans in the arena started booing. They were quite unhappy with the Temple Guards’ moves to that point in the game. Herbert had a Pendant of Life, though, as the Barracuda managed to successfully kill the penalty.
Justin Auger chased Antoine Bibeau from the game with a great move, patiently out waiting the netminder to commit on the fake shot before popping the puck into the empty net.
Stephon Williams replaced Bibeau after that. Things were going pretty well for the Reign up to that point. They got even better when Sean Walker scored off a great cross ice feed. The video replay makes it look like it bounced off a body, but it didn’t.
But then as the Reign are wont to do, they took a penalty. The Temple Guards caught them with too many players trying to put together to the Silver Monkey and they didn’t have a Pendant of Life to save them as Rudolfs Balcers scored on the power play.
And so the second period came to a close with the Reign leading the Cuda 6-3.
Better overall period for Ontario, but still too many penalties and still allowing too many good looks at Petersen. Managed 11 SOG and held the Cuda to 13. Big 20 coming up pic.twitter.com/fawFZI23Cy— Robyn (@robyn_jftc) March 25, 2018
San Jose had a big push in the third period. They had a good jump early on and hemmed the Reign in their own zone for a few good shifts, though Ontario did a good job of closing down lanes and blocking shots. Auger, in particular, had a few big blocks. What Petersen saw, he was good at redirecting rebounds out of harm’s way or stopping the puck when necessary. Though the Cuda were really the better team, at least in terms of time of possession, they were sort of victims of their own self-destruction. They iced the puck twice and just sort of made life difficult for themselves.
SJ's Balcers has a clean entry and... Does a spin-o-rama and passes to a Reign player then Cuda ice the puck again. Interesting.— Robyn (@robyn_jftc) March 25, 2018
Jordan Subban took down two players on his shift but there was no call from the Temple Guards, much to the fans’ disagreement. Shortly thereafter, Jonny Brodzinski got caught slashing. The slash was so hard, the sound of the stick snapping echoed loudly in the arena. The Cuda had their fair share of opportunities while Brodzinski was in the punitive box, but gladly surrendered his Pendant of Life (so no goal). With a little over a minute to go, Austin Wagner scored the Reign’s seventh goal of the game.
San Jose’s Legends of the Hidden Temple jerseys were great. Here’s a better look.
All in all, the Reign’s big guns came to play and were significant factors in this victory. Despite his penalty, Mersch was noticeable in all areas of the ice; Auger blocked several shots; Wagner had five shots; Maillet picked up five points (1-4-5) and Petersen stopped 33 of 36 shots on goal. Letters don’t really mean much in hockey besides who gets to talk to the refs, but Mersch’s and Auger’s leadership on the ice really helped their team to victory. In Mersch’s case, it was almost like he willed them to win. It sounds silly, but he played with a lot of determination and set up at least three of the goals.
Brodzinski wasn’t really noticeable until the final period and after that, he didn’t really seem to factor into the offense too much. Oscar Fantenberg was noticeable early, but beyond that, he had kind of a quiet game, which is okay for defensemen.