If you only paid attention to the Ontario Reign in October, you could be forgiven for assuming they would be making an early end to their season. They went six games without a win to start the season; in their first five games, they scored four total goals; in game number six, they scored four more and still lost. It was a rough start to the season for the Reign, who saw a lot of roster turnover, with veteran players like Vincent LoVerde leaving in free agency, and young players like Adrian Kempe and Kurtis MacDermid being assigned to the Kings.
So it was rough going for a while, but slowly and surely, the Reign crawled back up out of the basement of the Pacific Division. Tonight, thanks to both a Stockton loss to San Jose, and a Reign win over long-time nemesis the San Diego Gulls, the Reign have clinched their third consecutive trip to the playoffs.
It was a long road to get there, but over time, the Reign started to gel together as a team. The Reign team I saw in January looked nothing like the discombobulated, uncomfortable team I saw in October, already three games into their losing streak.
Matt Moulson was loaned to the Kings organization by the Sabres and assigned to the Reign; he’s currently second on the team in scoring, and while as a player, he’s undoubtedly disappointed to be in the AHL, he’s been a game changer for the Reign this year. Jonny Brodzinski’s been up and down between the AHL and NHL, but has been behind some pretty big goals for Ontario this year. Moulson, Brodzinski, and Mike Amadio made up one of the best lines in the AHL for a while, staying together through Amadio’s point streak, which eventually saw the rookie called up to the Kings.
And rookie goalie Cal Petersen has adapted nicely to the AHL, and has taken over the net after Jack Campbell was called up for good. Petersen’s the Reign’s man moving forward, and he’s proven himself more than capable of holding down the fort. Or, net, even.
While the playoff seeding could still change — the Reign have four games left to play — it’s more than likely that the Reign will face the San Diego Gulls. Again. If so, this will be the third year those teams have met. In the 2016 playoffs, the Reign dispatched the Gulls in the second round. In 2017, they met in the first round, where the Gulls won thanks to the Reign dealing with goalie injuries, including an injury to Jeff Zatkoff before the game and a fourth-string ECHL goalie allowing three goals in 11 minutes before getting pulled in favor of an ill-but-powering-through-it Jack Campbell.
This year, hopefully, there will be none of that drama.
Once the playoffs picture comes more into focus, we’ll be back to give you all the details. For now, let’s extend our congratulations to the Reign!