On Sunday, the Reign had a chance to find themselves atop the AHL’s Pacific Division standing with a win in San Jose. They came into the game tied with the Barracuda for tops in the division, but found themselves on the wrong side of the tie-breaker due to the amount of games both teams had played. Ultimately, the Reign were outplayed and fell to their division rivals by a final score of 4-1.
San Jose started the scoring in the first period after an unfortunate turnover by the Reign in their own defensive zone. Zac Leslie tripped over his own foot and tripped up his own defensive partner, Cam Schilling, who then coughed the puck up to a Barracuda forechecker. Buddy Robinson passed the puck to defenseman Dan Kelly at the point, whose slap shot beat a screened Jack Campbell for the 1-0 lead. There was plenty of traffic in front of the Ontario net and it appeared as if the point shot was tipped before finding the back of the net, leaving little Campbell could do on the play.
The Reign responded well after allowing the first goal of the game and fought back to tie the contest at one. Surveying his options, TJ Hensick circled behind the Barracuda with the net before working his way to the point and throwing a wrist shot towards the goal. Through a maze of bodies, Patrick Bjorkstrand got a stick on the puck and tipped it past San Jose goalie Troy Grosenick. The assist was Hensick’s seventh of the season versus the Barracuda.
In the second, San Jose’s Nikolay Goldobin put his team back in the lead. Julius Bergman’s point shot didn’t reach the net, but Daniel O’Regan was able to scoop up the loose puck, spin, and find Goldobin at the bottom of the circle to the left of Campbell. The young Russian was able to score on a low angle shot, putting his team up 2-1.
Ontario struggled mightily to get anything going in the second period. The team only had two shots on net, and it took them nearly 19 minutes to fire the first puck on net. San Jose controlled the pace of play and possessed the puck for nearly the entire period, not allowing Ontario to ever set up in the offensive zone.
Nikita Jevpalovs gave the Barracuda a two goal lead early in the third on a play similar to the one leading to San Jose’s second goal. A point shot was blocked en route to the net, allowing Jevpalovs a chance to poke the puck home from a bad angle just to the left of Campbell.
A third period push was futile for Ontario, as Grosenick and the Barracuda held on to secure the 4-1 victory.
Bjorkstrand may not have played often this year, and when he does he may see limited minutes, but the young forward looked good on Sunday. Early in the game, he forced a turnover right in the slot and fired a wrist shot off the post for one of Ontario’s best scoring chances in the contest. He also was able to get his stick on the puck and deflect home the Reign’s lone goal. Should he play as well as he did in San Jose, he’ll likely see an increase in playing time.
The Reign have been dealing with a rash of injuries lately, as big names like Michael Mersch and Teddy Purcell have been unable to play for their squad. Ontario was without another key player for them Sunday, as captain Vincent LoVerde was hurt in the team’s previous game and was held out of the contest versus San Jose. This was the first game LoVerde missed this year, and the team will surely hope that the steady defender will return to the lineup soon.
Kurtis MacDermid’s growth over the last three years has been tremendous. In fact, for the first time, he cracked MayorsManor’s top prospect list, which you can read here. The hulking defender looked anxious and rushed on Sunday, turning the puck over multiple times. MacDermid failed to read the play and calmly progress through his reads, instead opting to get the puck off his stick as fast as possible. Poise may come over time, but that type of decision making won’t fly at the next level.
Paul LaDuue returned to the Reign lineup after a brief call-up to the Kings. When asked if the team had outlined their plans with him going forward, the defenseman stated he was not told if he would return to LA before the team’s next game Thursday or not. Look for a full interview with him to go on the site in the coming days.
Despite the rash of injuries, which includes the team captain and one of their top defenders in LoVerde, the Reign still play terrific defensive hockey. All night, the team forced San Jose into taking shots from the perimeter and allowed Campbell a clear viewing lane on the puck. Much of this is a credit to the coaching staff, who is among the best in the AHL. People around the Kings talk a lot about how coach Mike Stothers was a breath of life into the team’s development squad, but don’t underestimate the importance of his assistant, Chris Hajt. Hajt runs the defense for Stothers and the duo have quite the thing going down in Ontario.
Lines for Sunday’s game were as follows:
Adrian Kempe – Brett Sutter – Jonny Brodzinski
Patrick Bjorkstrand – TJ Hensick – Sean Backman
Sam Herr – Andrew Crescenzi – Justin Auger
Daniel Ciampini – Mike Amadio – Quentin Shore
Kurtis MacDermid – Paul LaDue
Damir Sharipzianov – Tom Gilbert
Cam Schilling – Zac Leslie
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