Reign Recap: Righting the Ship

After a slow start to the season, the Ontario Reign have put themselves back into the playoffs picture.

State of the Reign

Current Standings: 23-17-2-1, 49 points (0.570 points percentage), 4th in the Pacific (out of 8)
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1-0
Team Lead, Goals: Michael Mersch, 18 goals (43 GP)
Team Lead, Assists: Active: Matt Moulson, 21 assists (24 GP); Inactive: Mike Amadio, 24 assists (24 GP)
Team Lead, Points: Active: Michael Mersch, 33 points; Inactive: Mike Amadio, 35 points
Team Lead, Shots: Michael Mersch, 124 shots
Team Lead, Penalty Minutes: Jamie Devane, 66 PIM (35 GP)

Previous Updates: Looking for Wins (November 1) | Back to Winning (November 21)

After a rocky start to the season, the Ontario Reign have been as up and down as their parent organization. If you want a microcosm of their season to date, look no further than their past four games.

I had a chance to see the Reign during a brief midwestern road trip before the All-Star break. In back-to-back games, the Reign managed to give up a tying goal in the closing seconds of one game, which they then lost in overtime, despite otherwise dominating the 3v3 portion (Rockford), and then played a strong game against a motivated Milwaukee team where they allowed the first goal, fell behind again, and made things more interesting than necessary with a late penalty.

In the next two games, the Reign got blown out 4-1 by division-leading Tuscon, and then followed it up with a dominant performance against the Iowa Wild (5-1), who only the night before had dismantled the Bakersfield Condors, 8-0.

Inconsistency, thy name is the Kings organization.

The Reign are still hanging in the playoff picture, and with a good amount of games coming up against teams below them in the standings, they could gain some points which will help them cement their place in the Pacific. For how poorly they started the season, the fact that they’re in the playoff conversation at all is a testament to the players and coaching staff for quickly turning around what could have been a lost season.


Being in the Midwest, I of course get very few chances to see the Reign in person.

They came to Chicago to open the Wolves’ season, and in that game, I saw an uncoordinated team that was struggling to communicate with each other on the ice.

Seeing them again in Rockford and Milwaukee months later, then, was a treat, because while they’re still a flawed team, particularly when it comes to depth players (sound familiar?), they’ve vastly improved.

Hello, sports.

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So, some player observations, from yours truly:

Kurtis MacDermid’s lack of agility/speed is less noticeable at the AHL level. He’s never going to be an offensive defenseman, and his combination of grit and stay-at-home-ness is probably more suited for the AHL. He could overcome the lack of speed with better positioning and hockey IQ, but unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be there yet.

The Brodzinski/Amadio/Moulson line were great; they’d had a few games apart with Brodzinski and Amadio in the NHL, but reunited, they picked up right where they left off. They’re fast, strong on the puck, and were constantly making things happen. I like that Brodzinski and Amadio are being kept on a line together in the NHL; hopefully they can build off of their chemistry together.

Jack Campbell was outstanding for the most part in the game against Rockford. He made several great saves on players who were allowed to get right up on the doorstep.

Oscar Fantenberg looked fast and confident, with or without the puck. I did enjoy his play at the NHL level, but consistency seemed to be the mark against him. If he’s not used as trade bait for deadline deals, I’d be interested to see what he could do next year with a year of pro North American hockey under his belt.

This was the best, weirdest goal that maybe I’ve ever seen:

Reign Road Trip, Day Two

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Welcome To…

Jordan Subban, acquired in the trade that sent Nic Dowd to Vancouver, has appeared in fifteen games with the Reign so far. While it remains to be seen where he fits into the Kings’ future plans, he’s made an impact on the score sheet, with three goals and three assists in that time.

He has been a healthy scratch at times; he sat out for both the Rockford and Milwaukee games, so I didn’t get to see him skate in order to report back. (He did sit in the stands with his fellow scratches wearing a very nice looking suit, though.) The Reign have a crowded blue line — they’ve used eleven rostered defensemen, and currently have seven on the active roster.

Matt Moulson was loaned to the Kings organization by the Buffalo Sabres in December. And while playing in the AHL is certainly not where the 34-year old forward wants to be, he’s made an immediate impact on the Reign’s lineup. He’s racked up 28 points in 24 games and is one of the few veteran voices in the locker room. Moulson has looked fantastic on the Reign’s top line, playing alongside Mike Amadio during the latter’s 17-game points streak.

Goodbye To...

Defenseman Zac Leslie was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for future considerations. Leslie has always managed to be just good enough in the AHL, and found himself passed up on the depth chart by players like Paul LaDue, Kevin Gravel, and Kurtis MacDermid. In his third year as a pro, Leslie hasn’t been able to reproduce his offensive stats from last year (five goals and 18 assists in 65 games). And with the reassignment of MacDermid and Oscar Fantenberg to the AHL, plus the acquisition of Subban, giving him a fresh start elsewhere is probably the right move.

Keegan Iverson, a gritty forward signed to an AHL contract over the summer, was reassigned to the ECHL in January. He has seven points with Manchester; in 11 games with the Reign, he notched only one goal.

Spencer Watson, an undersized forward who put up big numbers in junior hockey, has struggled with the transition to professional hockey. While he made it all the way to #7 on our top prospects’ list, he had no points through eight games with the Reign and was a frequent healthy scratch before being assigned to Manchester. He’s been tearing it up in the ECHL, though, with 30 points in 29 games and is fifth on the team in scoring.

All Star Honors

Reign captain Brett Sutter was chosen to participate in the AHL All-Star game this year, where he captained the Pacific squad. Also chosen was rookie netminder Cal Petersen.

Petersen put on a great performance in the rapid-fire challenge, where he stopped all ten pucks shot at him in close range from two alternating shooters.

The inclusion of Petersen at the All-Star game was a bit of a surprise, but he’s been putting together a great rookie campaign, and the organization hasn’t been shy about giving him equal time in net as Jack Campbell.

What’s Next

Six of the Reign’s next ten games are on the road, but they’re all against California teams. With the exception of the San Diego Gulls, all of the teams the Reign will be facing off are below them in the standings. The Reign and Gulls are tied in points; the Gulls have the slight edge in points percentage (points earned divided by points available).

Friday, February 9: Ontario @ Bakersfield, 7pm PST
Saturday, February 10: Bakersfield @ Ontario, 6pm PST
Saturday February 17: Ontario @ San Diego, 7pm PST
Sunday, February 18: San Diego @ Ontario, 3pm PST
Wednesday, February 21: San Jose @ Ontario, 7pm PST
Saturday, February 24: Ontario @ Bakersfield: 7pm PST
Wednesday, February 28: San Antonio @ Ontario, 7pm PST
Friday, March 2: Ontario @ San Diego, 7pm PST
Sunday, March 4: Ontario @ San Jose, 12pm PST
Wednesday, March 7: Ontario @ Stockton, 7pm PST

Additionally, on Tuesday, February 13, the Reign will take on Eisbären Berlin in what’s being billed as an “international frozen friendly”. The game will be played at the Reign’s home rink, Citizens Business Bank Arena, in Ontario.

The game also marks the return of forward Sean Backman, now with Eisbären Berlin. Backman spent four seasons in the Kings organization (two with Ontario and two with the former AHL incarnation of the Manchester Monarchs). Backman, who scored 118 points (62G, 97A) over 282 regular season games with the Reign/Monarchs, was part of the 2015 Calder Cup winning Manchester squad.