Following their big win the previous night in San Diego, the Ontario Reign headed home with a 2-0 lead on their division rivals, hoping to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their second round playoff series.
With their backs against the wall, the visiting Gulls came out to fight early. Their play saw marked improvement from 24 hours prior, and their efforts were rewarded by scoring the first goal of the game.
Late in the first, Kale Kossila scored his second goal of the playoffs to give his team a 1-0 lead. After Peter Budaj made the initial save on a shot from the perimeter, the rebound bounced to his right, where Kossila was left unattended and was able to bat the puck into the net before Budaj could slide over.
Though neither team scored in the middle period, both teams traded chances, with the Gulls getting the better of the looks. At times, it felt as if San Diego was close to extending their lead to two, but they failed to beat Budaj.
In the third period, they successfully added an insurance marker that they were unable to find in Game 2. Midway through the period, a Brandon Montour point shot was denied by Budaj, but the netminder failed to control the rebound once again and Nick Ritchie pounced on the loose puck, sliding it five-hole on the Reign goalie.
With 3 minutes to play, Ontario pulled their goalie in an attempt to tie the game up. However, with the empty net, Jaycob Megna was able to puck up a loose puck and send it 160 feet down the ice and into the net.
San Diego successfully closed out the remaining time, winning 3-0 and pushing the series score to 2-1.
Hockey is a game of bounces, and unfortunately for the Reign, they didn’t go their way. On both goals, Budaj was unable to control the initial shot, leaving rebounds in the slot for Gulls players to pounce on.
Though one player usually doesn’t usually dictate the results of a team game, one can’t help but wonder how the Reign would fare with a healthy Jonny Brodzinski. The young forward has hit his stride late in the year, but has been held out due to an undisclosed injury. For a team that has struggled so mightily to score goals, a pure sniper like Brodzinski would certainly give the Reign a different look.
One thing that can benefit a team lacking firepower is if they can get their power play clicking. Unfortunately for the Reign, their man-advantage the past two games has struggled mightily. Undoubtedly, the team will work on creating more opportunities when a man up during the next several days of practice.
A positive the team can draw on is that two veteran, key players have played tremendous two nights in a row. Both Nic Dowd and Vinny LoVerde have been some of the better players for their teams and certainly done their best to lead by example for the younger players on their team.
The two teams meet for Game 4 on Friday in San Diego.
Lines for Sunday’s game were as follows:
Kris Newbury – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
Michael Mersch – Adrian Kempe – Justin Auger
Sam Herr – Andrew Crescenzi – Jordan Samuels-Thomas
Joel Lowry – Mike Amadio – Paul Bissonnette
Kurtis MacDermid – Vincent LoVerde
Derek Forbort – Kevin Gravel
Jeff Schultz – Nick Ebert
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