Saturday night in Bakersfield, years of planning finally came to fruition – the AHL was playing regular season games in California. The Kings top minor league affiliate, now the Ontario Reign, was set to begin defense of their 2014-15 Calder Cup Championship. Using a roster largely comprised of the same group who played in Manchester last year, the Reign defeated the host Bakersfield Condors 5-0 for their first victory of the new era.
Earlier in the day, Ontario added another netminder, veteran Ray Emery, to help them get through the next few weeks, as top goaltending prospect Patrick Bartosak remains sidelined following hand surgery.
Emery wasn’t needed in this one, though, as Peter Budaj made 21 saves and forward Kris Newbury’s two goals led the team’s Opening Night performance. Defenseman and Ontario Reign team captain Vincent LoVerde captured the first AHL goal in team history, assisted by Newbury and forward Adrian Kempe. Later, forward Scott Sabourin gave the Reign a two-goal advantage, converting a rebound off of a Jamie McBain shot. The Reign’s offensive attack concluded with an unassisted goal by Paul Bissonnette.
Postgame, the following report was filed with MayorsManor by Sebastian Noren of ESPN Bakersfield:
– Kempe: Played well on the forecheck, as did they whole team. He had three shots on net in the second period. Looked more and more confident as the game went on. Played on a line with Newbury and Backman. Had the second assist on LoVerde’s opening goal.
– Zykov: Didn’t stand out. Had a difficult time putting his mark on the game. Played on a line with Mersch and Dowd.
– Brodzinski: Worked his butt off, did a great job on the forecheck leading up to Bissonnette’s goal.
– Gravel: Played an excellent game in all situations. Great next to McBain. Confident with the puck, played PP and PK. Good outlet passing, never panicked.
– Overall: Ontario forechecked the Condors to smithereens. The Condors looked a bit sluggish, having played the night before, but the Reign thoroughly impressed. Budaj looked solid in net, as the defense allowed him to see most of the shots.
– Here is what Bissonnette had to say following the win…