American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews was on hand in Ontario to witness the Reign 4-1 drubbing of the visiting Manitoba Moose. He shared some thoughts with MM prior to the game, they can be seen here.
As for the contest on the ice, there wasn’t much of one. A 1-0 first period lead for the Moose indicated a far closer game than actually took place Tuesday night. Valentin Zykov tied the game on a nice shot from above the circles. Zykov received the puck off the bench from Mersch who had gathered a rebound using his skate. Zykov said after the game that he felt pretty good about his game, but that there are things to wok on. The goal was Zykov’s first in his last 13 games.
Once the game was tied there was no looking back for Ontario, later adding goals by Mersch and veterans Ryan Horvat and Sean Backman. The Reign went 2/2 on the powerplay and have looked like an entirely new team since the return of Adrian Kempe and Michael Mersch. The balance created by being able to roll all four lines is something Mersch spoke about after the win.
“It was great to have all four lines going tonight. We stayed out of the box. We got all four lines rolling and it allowed us to keep everyone fresh on the bench.”
Mersch said he felt Tuesday was his best game since coming back. Back on a line with Nic Dowd, Mersch was quick to point out that he can play with anyone in Ontario, “everybody’s good on this team and it shows in the standings.”
Justin Auger will only register one assist on the scoresheet, but his play was a determining factor in Ontario’s decisive victory. He tied for the team lead with four shots on net and continued to assert himself physically, especially in the offensive zone. Auger spoke about his game and why he thought he was able to dictate action on the ice.
“Legs just felt good tonight. I thought I got a good warmup in. We rolled the first four lines on the first four shifts. Everyone gets a good shift in and it starts the game off right.”
Auger on the improvement in his overall game lately.
“I wouldnt say anything specific. Im really working on being constient every game, coming and playing and doing my part.
Auger mentioned that his goals moving forward are being a two way player, to continue contributing on the penalty kill and to be used in all situations. Consistency in his game is something Head Coach Mike Stothers noted about Auger’s game of late as well.
“He is rounding out. He is maturing in much of the way we expect the development will be for Zykov and Brodzinski and what not. It could be that he is feeling a bit more comfortable. Last year in under his belt. He has got the first half of the season here and you can see that his game is coming. He has made some great strides and has somethings to work on yet, but the consistency is now becoming more regular for Augs.”
Stothers also spoke about Zykov’s physical presence, that began on the very first shift of the game when he took part in a scuffle.
“That’s a big part of his game, he’s a big strong guy. Winning puck battles and knocking guys off of pucks, that’s a big part of it.” Stothers continued, “maybe it set the tone for Z. He seemed to be a bit more physical and a bit more of a presence on the ice. He seemed to be more noticeable on the ice which is great for him. He can make plays and he’s a strong skater. He should be playing a hard and heavy game every night, that’s when he’ll get more opportunities.”
The Reign have a game at home Friday night against the San Jose Barracuda before completing the home and home Saturday in NoCal.
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