It’s tough to win when you can’t stay out of the penalty box and it cost the Reign dearly Friday night. They allowed two power play goals in the third period and lost 5-3 to the Idaho Steelheads in Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Ontario is now down 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with the remaining games scheduled for tonight and Monday (if needed) at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena.
“At the end of the day we have to control ourselves,” said Ontario head Coach Jason Christie. “That’s all we can control, and we have to come out and play better.”
Ontario took six minutes in penalties to start the third and Idaho used it to their advantage. Aaron Lewicki put in a pretty passing play three minutes into the period and Jacob Cepis beat Reign goaltender JF Berube on his third attempt to give the Steelheads a two goal lead.
Berube, drafted by the LA Kings in 2009 and playing his first year of pro hockey, has been putting him some of his better numbers of the season lately. However, the Steelheads were applying pressure all night – even though they ended the game with only 26 shots.
Things were tied 2-2 after forty minutes, but the story isn’t that simple. Idaho was up 1-0 when the first period came to an end an added a second marker close to the midway point of the second period. Then, thing turned ugly.
Idaho forward Ron Meyers was given a five minute major penalty after a brutal open ice check hit on Reign forward Kyle Kraemer. Kraemer stayed down on the ice after the hit and looked severely injured on the play; he was not steady on his feet and was helped off the ice by his Reign teammates. According to Christie, Kraemer was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. The coach went on to say that Meyers, who was given the major penalty by the officials and was ejected from the game, was not even the player who had thrown the hit – -“Three guys on the ice and they called the wrong guy. It was (Matt Case), it wasn’t even (Meyers)!”
Idaho struck twice early in the third and the Reign were playing catch-up the rest of the way A goal by Couture at 11:50 made it a 4-3 game. But, it wasn’t to be. in the final minutes, mere seconds after Berube was pulled for the extra attacker, Idaho put the puck in an empty net, icing the game 5-3.
Michael Neal, the younger brother of Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal, picked up an assist on Idaho’s go-ahead goal in the third period.
This was the Reign’s first home playoff game since a Game 7 first round loss in their inaugural season.
Asked about the possibility of facing an elimination game tonight, Couture said – “You can buck up and come to play or you can fold. This is when character shines through.”
Game four will start at 6pm tonight (and tickets are still available).
With their backs against the wall, the Reign need a win to prolong things to a series-deciding game five on Monday.