A quick offensive explosion that took 2:42 brought the Ontario Reign from being shutout and losing 3-0 to leading 4-3, which the Reign would never look back and ultimately winning the game 5-4. The sellout crowd of 9,491 fans roared when Kevin Gravel’s power play goal put the Reign on top 4-3, sparking the end of a four goal rally that ended the barrage sent towards Bakersfield Condor’s goalie Ben Scrivens. Gravel took a pass from the wall from forward Sean Backman and fired a slap shot from the point that beat Scrivens high to the glove side. The rally was started with three Reign goals: Michael Mersch, Kris Newbury, and Valentin Zykov scored three goals in 56 seconds of action to awaken a previously lackadaisical Reign team. Mersch got the Reign started with a typical Michael Mersch goal. Mersch fought off the Condors’ defenseman and put a shot on goaltender Ben Scrivens, Scrivens made the save, but after the rebound bounced off a defenseman’s skate Mersch capitalized and chipped the puck past Scrivens.
“I think the world of Michael Mersch,” said head coach Mike Stothers. “I think he’s far too good for this league, and I hope that in the very near future he’s playing in the National Hockey League, and I hope it’s with the Kings.”
Six seconds after Mersch got the Reign back in it Kris Newbury scored to put the Reign within a goal. Just a short 50 seconds after that Zykov had a wide open net after Andrew Crescenzi lofted a pass on a 2-on-1 break to the talented Russian winger who scored to tie the game at three. It was a stunning turn of events for a Reign team that didn’t have much pressure till that point in the game.
“Well we had to start moving our feet first and foremost,” said Stothers. “You know what it’s a strange game, because I mean you can rant and rave and you can look at it as a positive and we have plenty of time.”
Valentin Zykov scored the eventual game winner in the third period when Condor’s defenseman Brad Hunt was chased down in the offensive zone by Mersch. Hunt lost his balance and lost control of the puck where forward Nic Dowd picked up the puck and found Zykov waiting in the slot who fired a low hard shot past Scrivens. The Reign victory moved them to 4-0 on the young AHL season.
“[Even when we were down], we kept trying to find energy and tried to keep going and going,” added Zykov. “We wanted to win the game and [keep our mometum going], that gives us confidence.”
Despite three goals in four games, the gregarious – yet very humble – Russian-born forward wasn’t ready to label this the strong start to the season he had mentioned over the summer. “I’ve only played four games, it’s hard to say ‘good start’ or ‘bad start.’ I’d like to comment on that [a little bit later],” he noted.
The Condors started the game hot getting two goals early in the first period from Andrew Miller and Kale Kessy. Miller picked off an ill advised pass from Adrian Kempe and he flew past the Reign defenseman before tucking a shot underneath Reign goaltender Peter Budaj. Kale Kessy scored shortly there after finding a loose puck in the slot and beating Budaj under the arm.
For the Reign, at that point, the two goals scored on them was more than they allowed in the first three games of the regular season combined. Bakersfield’s Joshua Winquist scored in the third period to increase the lead to three. Late in the game with the Condor’s down two, Jujhar Khaira scored to bring the Condors back in it, but a terrific forecheck by Ontario forced Bakersfield to spend the last couple of minutes in their own zone.
Kempe – Backman – Newbury
Mersch – Dowd – Zykov
Samuels-Thomas – Brodzinski – Horvat
Sabourin – Crescenzi – Auger
Schultz – Raine
Gravel – Ebert
MacDermid – LoVerde