The Ontario Reign did not want to let San Jose extend their season and made sure they played their game and smothered the Barracuda in Game 4 of the First Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs winning the game 4-1 and moving on to the next round. With their victory, it will set up a good old fashion rivalry against the San Diego Gulls in the next round.
Ontario opened the scoring in the first period when Nic Dowd found a rebound and roofed it past Barracuda goaltender Aaron Dell. The play started when the puck came to Kevin Gravel at the right point, Gravel fired a shot towards Dell that was knocked down by Sean Backman in front, Backman then whipped a shot on Dell. Dell made the initial save but lost the puck in the process which Dowd was able to find and deposit high. For Dowd it was his second goal in as many nights and continued his solid play during the playoffs. Dowd recorded a point in each of the four playoff games against San Jose.
San Jose would get one back in the second period to tie the game at one. After a brief scrum along the wall the puck bounced loose for Barclay Goodrow who took no time in firing a quick shot towards Reign goaltender Peter Budaj. Jeremy Langlois was skating in front of Budaj and was able to get a piece of it and change its direction and get it past Budaj It was an innocent looking play, but Budaj being screened gave the puck the little space it needed, and it gave the Barracuda the life line they were looking for. For Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers he wasn’t worried about how his team would react to the goal.
“There’s times on the bench you get a sense or a feeling where things are getting a little unraveled or a little unglued and there wasn’t that tonight,” said Stothers. “It was kind of like last night where they get that crazy bounce and the puck goes in and you kind of look at the clock, but again there was no sense of that. You could kind of read off the player and their demeanor, if they’re not getting overly excited or concerned about it then you can tell by the way you’re playing”
Ontario didn’t let the goal get to them and unfortunately for San Jose, the heart beat they got after tying the score flat lined after four minutes when a mistake in their own zone led to Justin Auger finding the room and beating Dell high over the glove. Marco Mueller got the puck in the corner and with no pressure around him threw a pass to the middle of the ice which got picked off by Reign forward Michael Mersch. Mersch fired a shot on goal and in the ensuing scramble around the goal crease the puck was corralled by Auger, who fought off a couple of Barracuda players before finding time to pick the upper right corner on Dell. For Auger his first goal of the series could not have come at a better time as it deflated the Barracuda.
“We talked a lot about getting a lot more traffic in front of Dell,” said Auger. “I know me and [Andrew] Crescenzi were both whacking away there and I got it in my feet and [Dell] has really been challenging us, so I threw a little fake in there hopefully get him moving, get him stuck standing still and I shot it over his shoulder.”
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 30, 2016
The third period the Reign kept it simple and kept the puck out of their own zone. A lot of chipping and chasing pucks out of the zone and keeping San Jose out of their own zone. It was one of the chip and chase plays that was the dagger for the series. Jordan Samuels-Thomas chipped one out of his own zone and Andrew Crescenzi moved his legs and chased the puck down the ice and after a quick stick battle with a Barracuda defenseman the puck sat still for Samuels-Thomas whose wrist shot beat Dell again high to the glove. It was a big addition to the lineup to get Crescenzi back into the lineup after missing Game 3 due to injury and he was on the ice for the last three Reign goals including when he scored an empty net goal finishing the game and the series.
Ontario is now looking to a heated series against the San Diego Gulls which will start on Thursday May 5th at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. In a different style of playoff format, the two teams will alternate home games throughout the entire series.
— AHL (@TheAHL) April 30, 2016
Mersch – Kempe – Brodzinski
Newbury – Dowd – Backman
Samuels-Thomas – Amadio – Auger
Lowry – Crescenzi – Bissonnette
MacDermid – LoVerde
Forbort – Gravel
Schultz – Raine