AHL: Ontario Falls In Tussle With Tucson

The Tucson Roadrunners were in town to face the Ontario Reign. The teams are schedule to become quite acquainted with each other, facing each other three times in the span of eight days. Ontario boasted a 4-3-2 record against their new(ish) division rivals coming into the game. Tucson would improve their record on Saturday by grabbing a narrow victory in Ontario.

Both teams began the game showing signs of having played the night prior. While Ontario bested the Stockton Heat 2-1, Tucson fell to the San Diego Gulls 4-1. The best chance of the period for Ontario came off the stick of Alex Lintuniemi. The young prospect followed a 3-on-2 rush up the ice and found a rebound, but shot it right into Tucson netminder Adin Hill. Tucson could not find a way to beat Jeff Zatkoff during the opening frame. Chances by Brett Sutter and Andrew Crescenzi weren’t enough to beat Hill either, and the teams ended the first period knotted at nothing.

Less than a minute after the puck dropped on the middle frame Crescenzi took a minor penalty. Ontario would kill it off, but only to suffer another short handed chance shortly thereafter. This time, Tucson would make the Reign pay, as Zbynek Michalek buried a puck passed a fallen Jeff Zatkoff. He received that puck as a Lintuniemi attempted to clear a rebound, issue being it was a no-look, backhand attempt into the slot. Halfway through the period, Tucson had built itself a healthy 22-9 lead in the shots on goal department. Tucson forward Mitch Moroz would finish off another rush, potting a Jamie McBain pass for the 2-0 lead.

The Reign could not complete their man advantage chance that was split between the second and third periods, but would receive another one just minutes later. On that power play, Brett Sutter took a Lintuniemi pass and blasted it passed Hill, bringing the Reign to within one goal. Ontario would take the reins for the next handful of shifts, putting on their best pressure of the evening. They sustained the pressure and created chances for five full minutes during the third but it proved to be too little, too late. Tucson fought off the advances and secured the victory, their first in the last three tries against Ontario. Mike Stothers talked about the effort (or lack thereof) and what Ontario needs to do to get the four remaining points against Tucson.

On what was missing: “The first and second period. We played a good third, but it’s a 60 minute game not a 20 minute game. We hit some posts yeah, rang the dinner bell a couple times but they have to go in the back of the net. Certainly didn’t do ourselves any favors in the second especially.”

On the power play moving the puck and not scoring: “That’s what the power play is supposed to do, score you a big goal. I think the first one we stood around. We didn’t even move, so, Tucson didn’t have to move. The second one we got in that period we moved with a little more urgency or whatever. It’s interesting.”

On how to get all four remaining points against Tucson: “Well we’re going to try and play like we did in the third, for a full 60 minutes. We’re going to try and put back-to-back games together, which we haven’t done in a while. There’s lots of things to work on in this upcoming week.”

On the team’s struggles in the second period: “I don’t know, you’d probably talk to them before you talk to me. All we do is switch ends, so maybe that’s what we’ll practice this week. Run our drills going the other way.”

Ontario will bus to Bakersfield for a Friday night road game before facing Tucson on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend back-to-back will be the final two meetings between the clubs for the regular season. The Reign have just six total home games remaining this year.

LINE COMBINATIONS:

Forwards

Mersch – Hensick – Purcell

Backman – Sutter – Setoguchi

Bjorkstrand – Amadio – Auger

Lowry – Crescenzi – Herr

Defense

Sharipzianov – LoVerde

MacDermid – Leslie

Lintuniemi – Schilling

Goaltender

Zatkoff

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Comments

  1. Craig Parks says:

    The Reign isn’t playing as a cohesive team. My guess is too many new players at the same time and thy just don’t understand how to work together, what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are.
    It’s frustrating to see the team in disarray and makes me long for the handful of ECHL players who I miss.

    • Cody Warner says:

      The turnover is definitely a challenge, especially considering the role of the players they lost from last season. That being said, they have been successful at times this season and are still near the top of the division, relatively. They dominated the last 10 minutes of the game on Saturday. As Stothers has said all year, they need to find a way to put 60 minutes of hockey together.