The Ontario Reign opened their home schedule Friday night with a game against the division rival Texas Stars. Despite Texas finishing just two points behind Ontario in the standings last year, the Reign went undefeated against the Stars. Tonight was no different, as a three-point effort by Captain Vincent LoVerde led the Reign to an overtime victory, with Kings prospect Johnny Brodzinski finally sealing the deal. Despite the two-points in the standings, Coach Mike Stothers wasnt overly pleased with the game.
On the game overall:
“Actually I’m not all that happy with that one. What was it, 10-9? 6-5? I don’t even know it was ridiculous, that’s not how we play. I mean it’s good that we got one more than they did, but that’s not going to win either team a championship.”
On Kempe: “There’s a maturity factor, he’s an expereinced guy now. But you get caught up in the rush, now we need to finish the rush.”
Former Texas netminder and first round pick Jack Campbell got the nod in net for Ontario with Petr Budaj on assigment with the big club. Texas came into the game bolstering some blue-liners that once played for Coach Stothers in Nick Ebert and Andrew Bodnarchuck. Some of you will remember Bodnarchuck from the final season that the Manchester Monarchs were the Kings’ AHL franchise and they won a Calder Cup.
Zac Leslie, who was sent down by the LA Kings just yesterday opened the scoring with a great shot passed Texas goalie Maxime Legace. He was fed a beautiful pass by veteran and new Reign player TJ Hensick, who later added a goal on a powerplay chance.
Hensick on his comfort level:
“It’s good. Obviously this group has been through a lot the past couple years. They won two years ago and went to the Western Conference Finals last year so I’m just trying to come in and do my part to continue to help the tradition and win games.”
Both Hensick and Stothers mentioned that he has learned quite a bit as a player and as a professional since joining Ontario.
LoVerde scored just over three minutes later to make the lead two goals, but Texas answered less than a minute after that. LoVerde scored again, this time shorthanded on a breakaway after a great forecheck by Justin Auger. Hensick added his powerplay marker off a feed from LoVerde and the Reign took a 4-1 lead into the second period.
The game slowed down a bit to begin the second period but the tempo was ramped up once again when the Reign took the first of what Stots referred to as, “stupid penalties.” The coach noted that as the reason Texas was allowed to get back in the game, and they did. The Stars capitalized on two ensuing powerplays to bring the game back to within one goal.
Ontario made well on a powerplay of their own when Kings prospect Mike Mersch scored his second goal in as many games. Big Mike was a bit of a surprise ommission from the Kings opening night roster this year, but has started the season off hot once again. Two third period goals by Texas evened up the score and eventually sent the contest to the extra frame.
Overtime started in a blaze when Adrian Kempe grabbed the puck and pretty much one-manned it for the first 30 seconds or so. When the space closed up and Texas locked it down, he wasted no time vacating the offensive zone to ensure Ontario kept posession. An intelligent play by the highly-touted young Swede that paid off when he fed the puck to teammate and fellow bubble player Kevin Gravel. Gravel got the puck over to Brodzinski who blasted the winning goal past Legace with that trademark shot everyone talks about.
Gravel on their dominance of Texas continuing from last season:
“Obviously they’ve got a lot of talent on that team and we’ve had success against them last year, but sometimes it just goes that way. I think every game was close against them last year, a couple OT games, a 7-6 game with them similar to the game we had today. I don’t know what it is, we try to play a pretty defensive structure and those guys like to play run and gun. If we keep the puck in their zone and make them defend, maybe they’re not as comfortable doing that.”
Last year it took Brodzinski 18 games and a healthy scratch to finally get going. Known for being a pure scorer with a terrific shot, it is important for the Reign that Brodzinski get in the goal column earlier this season. Stots did say, though, that Brodzinski could be bringing “a lot more,” to the team.
Brodzinski on his overtime goal:
“I think it was Kempe who came back with the puck, really heads up play by him. We got a change and he ended up giving it to Gravel, who gave it to me. I had a little bit of space and it (the puck) flipped up on its side and I took a slapshot, fortunately it went in.”
The Reign have never lost to the Texas Stars, tonight becoming a perfect 7-0 all-time against the Dallas affiliate. Ontario plays their second home game against San Jose tomorrow at 6:00 PM.
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