You just never know what you’re going to get with minor league hockey. Sure, the game is basically the same. However, there can be just enough differences to make things exciting and confusing, often all at the same time. For example, on Friday night, Ontario Reign P.A. announcer Dave Joseph commented post-game that he couldn’t recall ever having to explain a 10-minute misconduct penalty for continuation before.
Just a few days prior, the team was fortunate to avoid a rather weird playoff schedule that would have had them playing a 2-2-2-1 format (two games on the road, two at home, two more on the road, and then a possible Game 7 at home). Instead, their opening round series vs. the Colorado Eagles will be played using a 2-3-2 format.
Adding to the strangeness, Reign goaltender Joe Cannata left the ice with a lower body injury in last night’s game and will not be able to join the team for their upcoming road trip to Colorado for the next three games. Now, per league rules, coach Jason Christie can only add a goalie who has never appeared in the ECHL before. Yes, an emergency backup without any experience.
It’s just the latest in a long line of adversities Christie has faced since first taking the job only a few weeks before opening night several years back. He’s rebuilt the roster numerous times, and will likely work his magic once again. With multiple Pacific Division titles to his credit already, the thing Christie craves most is a long playoff run; something the team expected this year, despite opening the post-season with a loss on Thursday.
Following a 4-1 win last night, the Reign have tied the series 1-1 (watch highlights at the end of this article). Afterward, Christie shared the following:
On the overall game:
“We need to have a good start. We had to make sure that we left last night, how we ended the game, and carry it on to the start of the game tonight.”
On the status of goalie Joe Cannata:
“We’re still waiting for the doctors to come and evaluate him. [But], I just texted the league, I’ve got to go out and find a guy. Unfortunately we’re a four-letter league, that’s what we have to do.”
On if the guys were ready to go tonight:
“I think there are a couple questionable things we had to fight through no question. The only thing we can control is ourselves. You’re going to have some down times, some down shifts; you just have to stay focused. The players had energy.”
On the importance of the penalty kill and scoring immediately after one of them:
“That’s huge. Were a little out of sync as a bunch of late. After two periods there we kind of picked up our game. That’s a good club over there, they’ve got some good players, so we have to make sure we’re ready to go. Theirs is a tough building to play in and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
On the road building and the challenges they will face:
“We just got to be ready to go, its playoff time. It’s somewhere we got to be hard on the puck and we’ve got to go through bodies. We got to make sure were consistent. A simple road game, but in playoffs nothing is ever simple. You’ve got to go out and be focused.”
On the frustration of losing Game 1:
“The third period was good for us last night. Like I said, we know what we got in that room. We just got to come together and we’ve got to work, it’s not going to be easy anymore. Everything you do is a grind. Every shift, every period. We have to make sure were not too high and not too low, and keep the game as simple as we can.”
On if having a good third period changed his approach to the team after Game 1 was over:
“You can’t [yell and scream]. That’s exactly it, ‘We’re going to be better tomorrow.’ It’s playoffs, you want to make sure that there focused. You can’t lose them at this time of year, and they know. They’re pros, they’ve been through the war a bit here. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, they know that how we finished is how we had to come out and play tonight.”
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