Ontario started the game with a comfortable five point lead over San Jose for the Pacific division lead. Meanwhile, the third place San Diego Gulls were looking to make up some ground, as they sat seven points back of the Reign with two games in hand. And they would do just that, scratching their way to a 4-3 overtime win on Friday night.
In their last meeting, the Reign managed a 3-2 shootout victory, securing their third straight victory over the Gulls. Overall, LA’s top minor league affiliate has dominated Anaheim’s counterpart this season, posting a 4-1 record in their first five contests.
On this occasion, action began swiftly, with Ontario abanding their usual slow starting ways with veteran forward – and recent acquisition – TJ Hensick putting them on the board less than a minute into the game. He potted a rebound from a Sean Backman shot after Backman had been set up by Adrian Kempe. Yet, just a few shifts later, while moving the puck up ice, Hensick was stripped, leading to a San Diego goal by former Reign forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas. Despite Ontario creating a few high quality scoring chances over the initial 20 minutes, the clubs were tied 1-1 after one period.
During the second period, Jonny Brodzinski possessed the puck deep in San Diego territory, fending off multiple attempts at the puck. He eventually got the puck to Sutter, who did maneuvering of his own to create a passing lane. He found Kings prospect Mike Amadio in the high slot and rung one off the post and in. Amadio beat former LA goalie Jonas Enroth for his eighth goal of the year. The second period has been a bit of a weak spot for Ontario, at times slowing down and lacking the intensity their game is known for. Tonight that was not the case, at Ontario continued to dictate play and push the envelope on the ice. A power play chance for either team wasn’t enough for either to score, and Ontario skated into the third period with a one goal lead.
Local product Nic Kerdiles found a rebound and beat goalie Jack Campbell to the short side, tying the game at two. The Gulls would give up a chance to the 2nd ranked power play and would later regret it. After nearly clearing the zone, Amadio grabbed an errant puck and fed Justin Auger. Located at the top of the crease, the hulking forward made a backhand-forehand move and lifted the puck over Enroth, giving Ontario a 3-2 lead. Auger, Brodzinski, Amadio and Kempe we’re all mainstays on the ice as the game dwindled, a sign of trust from Head Coach Mike Stothers. After the game Auger spoke about hig goal and gaining that trust from his coach.
Auger on his goal: “When we get put out there on the power play that’s what is expected of us. Amadio made a great play, let the guy come to him and he saw me standing all alone in front there. Made a great play and gave me the puck and I just happened to be all alone in front.
On playing a full 60 minutes as a team: “That’s something we’ve been working on all season. Consistency and putting together a 60 minute game. Obviously we started sitting back a bit late in the third here, once we got that 3-2 lead and it came back to bite us.”
Enroth eventually left the crease for the bench and the extra man made the difference. A shot from the point snuck through and beat Campbell, tying the game at three. With just over a minute left Sean Backman was tripped, sending Ontario’s power play unit to the ice. The 63 remaining seconds wouldn’t be enough, though, as overtime would be needed.
In the overtime period Ontario would garner the first quality chances, two shots by Brodzinski. After an Ontario rush and turnover, Gulls defenseman Brandon Montour was sprung on a breakaway. He scored, securing the 4-3 win for San Diego, just their second over Ontario this year. Coach Stothers didn’t consider Friday’s game a complete effort and shared some thoughts on the loss after the game.
On the loss: “Yeah we gave away a win. I don’t care if we just had a four day break, we gave away a win. They scored with about 1:23 to tie it up, we get a power play into overtime, and they get a breakaway, and they score. A lot of time I look at a game and say ‘okay we got a point, that’s good.’ Tonight we gave two points to San Diego, it doesn’t sit well.”
On the 60 minute game: “We didn’t do very well. We had a lead to start the third and lost the game in overtime. Both teams had a four day break. Im not sure we even generated anything in the third. Either we were sitting on it and protecting the lead or maybe we ran out of gas. Maybe we did because ‘Biss’ (Bissonnette) on the first shift of the first period. Then we lost Lintuniemi in the third so your bench is extremely short. But still, I don’t care, we had a lead.”
On getting production from prospects: “It’s nice to see the young guys getting some points. We waited a long time for Kempe and he’s now producing the way we were anticipating and I’m sure the way he was expecting to. ‘Brodz’ (Brodzinski) had a little bit of a slow start but he’s been red-hot. Amadio, you know what, he’s made some great strides. From ‘Mads’ sometimes I see the boy evolving into a man and sometimes I see a boy playing against men. That’s what is going to happen for a young guy like him, that’s life in the American Hockey League. He’s going to have some ups and downs ”
The overtime loss was Ontario’s 2nd in it’s last three contests. The two teams finish the home and home series tomorrow night, with puck drop scheduled for 7:00 PM.
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