If the three-game sweep pulled off by the Reign in Colorado last week was a dominant performance, Wednesday night could be characterized as a ‘character’ win. Trailing 4-2 after 40 minutes, forward Mikey Eyssimont — who earlier had an assist and a fight — recorded a natural hat trick in the third period to help propel Ontario to a 6-4 victory over San Diego.
With his first goal, Eyssimont completed a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, so it was quite a night for the 24-year-old winger.
“Mikey gives every single thing he has into being his best, and he wants it as much, if not more, than anybody else,” said coach John Wroblewski after the game. “To see him get rewarded is outstanding. He puts in so much work and he just wants it so bad. It’s inspiring to see, frankly, because there would be a lot of ways where he could start to cheat the game a little bit or try to do things on offense that would be putting the team at risk, stretching out from the defensive zone. He’s bought into what we’re selling. His play is so strong every night and his passion for the game is just outstanding. I’m really happy for Mikey.”
Somewhat lost in the euphoria of the game’s final frame was the fact Rasmus Kupari opened the scoring and Akil Thomas later recorded his ninth goal of the season — putting him just two goals back of Arthur Kaliyev’s 11, as well as second place in the team points race, again just two behind Kaliyev’s 24 points.
With only one call-up remaining for the LA Kings, both players appeared to be making their final push for recognition.
“That was the message that I had for those guys during our bye-week,” noted Wrobo. “Akil, Kupari, Turcotte, or Kaliyev – any one of these guys, to me, is in the mix for it. You look at Eyssimont’s performance, everybody’s pounding on the door. That was something that we talked about during the bye-week, not only as a group, but with individuals, is to leave no doubt in management’s mind – the people who are ultimately making the decisions – that this is the type of player you are. This is who you want them to believe in. You have these 10 games to solidify, not only your spot on this team, but impact the decision-making process for your future. It was a good chat, good opportunity for a reset, and one that I hope we get to visit in future seasons with Ontario. There are a couple of reset moments so that guys can get their minds and bodies back wrapped around this very difficult schedule.”
More from Wrobo:
If this game against the Gulls was a game they should’ve won
Let’s just put it this way, JF Berube kept slamming that door shut there at 4-2, and it certainly could have gotten out of hand there in the second. We need to bring a more complete effort. I liked our start, but we got lost there in the middle 30 minutes, it wasn’t our strongest game. True to form, though, we controlled the third period pretty well there with a solid 20. Maybe that game was a split 50-50, but they were good tonight, and the Gulls were a determined team after the [9-2] loss they encountered last weekend. Good job by them.
On if the narrative coming into the game was about Ontario’s previous success or about San Diego coming off a big loss
Earlier in the week, we talked about our successes and how we need to make sure that we appreciate them and acknowledge them, and also use that as a bouncing board going forward. We believe that we have the team in here that can go into a place like Colorado and win three straight, which doesn’t happen very often. That was earlier in the week, our lasting thoughts here today were that that’s a class franchise down there. They didn’t have their best performance, and there was going to be an answer from them. They moved around some personnel. They injected not only some hungry players in the lineup, then they combined them with a hungry team that was challenged by a very good coaching staff. The last thought today is that while we have to have confidence in what we do, you better respect your opponent, you better respect the situation. We might not have had that proper level of respect; I hope that we learn that every game has to have that. A game that looked like we didn’t have it, and honestly wasn’t gonna click for us, that’s another feather in our cap to know that we can make some plays when it’s crunch time and when it’s on the line. That’s a sign of a great team too.
On if he feels the team is gaining momentum going into the AHL’s Pacific Division postseason tournament
There’s a belief, and it’s earned from these guys. That’s a game that frankly a month ago we don’t win, and we’re not confident in our skill level to be able to make the plays there to get us back into the game. Look at those games in Bakersfield a couple of weeks ago, those are all things that we’ll remind the players of as we embark on this playoff structure, this postseason that we’re going to have. Confidence is paramount, and belief is paramount. We’ll be sure to bolster all those items.
Mark Messier on the way the #NYR are currently built: "In my opinion, if you're going to win, you got to be able to win in the street and the alley. I particularly would not have built the team that didn't have answers in this regard."
That's a statement.
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) May 5, 2021
On the role of fighting being such a hot-button topic over the past few days
I know that society is shifting a little bit out of that mode. When you’re a hockey player on a team and you don’t have that toughness, you don’t have that pack mentality as a group, and then the ability to back it up – at the end of the day, it’s going to come to a head and it’s going to boil over in our sport, I believe, forever. The players have to police themselves on the ice and you better have a team… Mark Messier had an interesting quote today about it, ‘You have to be able to win in the streets and in the alleys.’ I think that means that you have to be able to convert on your skill plays and present all the proper items, but then if you get backed into a corner, you better be ready to claw your way out with the right guys. There’s a lot of avenues to be tough, but there’s no doubt in my brain that you have to have that team toughness, that pack mentality, where guys will do anything for each other.
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