It was a classic, too little, too late game for the Ontario Reign Sunday night at the Citizens Business Bank Arena, losing 3-2 to the Lake Erie Monsters in the second of their best of seven game series. The lackluster play in the first and second periods put the Reign behind and they could never come back from the early 3-0 deficit.
Ontario was on their heels for most of the first period starting with two consecutive penalties. Even though Ontario killed both of those penalties, they were never able to establish their game and the downfall came within a span of 12 seconds. During a delayed penalty call on Ontario, Lake Erie was able to gain the zone and put pressure on the Reign defense. Markus Hannikainen got the puck to Ryan Craig who hopped on as the extra attacker on the play, Hannikainen drove the net and beat Paul LaDue to the front and he was able to tap in a simple pass from Lukas Sedlak for a 1-0 lead. It only stayed a one goal lead for 12 seconds as Hannikainen and Sedlak got to work again. Hannikainen picked up a puck in his own zone and bounced a pass off the wall, past Reign defenseman Kevin Gravel, right to Sedlak who had a 2-on-1 with Oliver Bjorkstand. Sedlak kept it for himself and beat Reign goaltender Peter Budaj between the legs for a quick 2-0 lead. It’s the second game in a row that Ontario has been victimized by multiple goals in a short period of time, in Game 1 Ontario allowed three goals in 2:36 of the second period.
Lake Erie increased their lead to three goals when T.J. Tynan scored a power play goal while Justin Auger was in the box for slashing. Budaj made two saves on Steve Eminger and Craig but the puck shot out to Tynan who was coming down the wing looking for his opportunity. Tynan found it, and with Budaj already sprawling after making the first two saves, there was nothing but a gaping net for Tynan. With that the Reign were down by three after two periods of play.
For Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers the biggest problem that the Reign has had has been their lack of consistency and their ability to play a full game. “I think we’ve played in spurts, as a matter of fact we were just talking about that in the coach’s office,” Stothers said. With Ontario playing in spurts they’ve had to try to come back down multiple goals. “Some teams, would probably just mail it in after 3-0 after two, not us. I like that,” said Stothers.
With nothing going into the third period, Ontario needed something to give them some life, and sometimes it is not the star player who starts the comeback but it’s the grinder who gets the goal. In this case it was veteran Paul Bissonnette who got the goal to give the Reign life. Joel Lowry was able to get the puck in and with time throw a puck at the front of the net which was tipped in front by Kris Newbury. After being tipped to the top of the crease Bissonnette flew in there and was able to find a way to get it past Anton Forsberg and get the Reign back into it. “We got to get it going north and when we’ve done that we’ve had success,” said Bissonnette. “That’s where all the low to highs have came from, and to the net, getting greasy ones.” The line of Newbury, Lowry, and Bissonnette were really effective in the third period and got the Reign started. Kevin Gravel was able to get Ontario within a goal with a wrist shot from the point that beat Forsberg high. A great forecheck by Nic Dowd was able to free the puck up for Michael Mersch to tapped it back to Gravel. It was the forecheck that the Reign have been looking for all game.
Ontario almost got the tying goal after having a golden chance. Mersch was left alone in front of Forsberg with under 20 seconds left in the game. After a lost faceoff the puck came back to Sean Backman who threw the puck towards the front of the net where inexplicably Mersch was the only person. Mersch made a move and tried to beat Forsberg by opening him up and firing the puck through his legs but Forsberg was up to the task and made the save.
Mersch – Dowd – Amadio
Backman – Kempe – Sutter
Samuels-Thomas – Crescenzi – Auger
Lowry – Newbury – Bissonnette
Forbort – Gravel
Schultz – LaDue
LoVerde – MacDermid