Down late in regulation on Saturday night, the Reign mounted a thrilling comeback attempt, only to fall one goal short against the Roadrunners. Trailing 5-1 with about 12 minutes remaining in regulation, Ontario would score three goals in a stretch of eight minutes; yet couldn’t find the equalizer and ultimately fell 5-4 in the second night of their back-to-back set at Tucson.
Kings prospect Sammy Helenius impressed with a pair of goals in a 30-second span during the team’s late push. A second-round selection by LA, the 21-year-old centerman has seen expanded opportunities of late, in part due to several Reign injuries and multiple NHL recalls over the past weeks.
Earlier in the day, LA had summoned Alex Turcotte to join them, sending the young forward to fly from the Arizona desert to meet the team in St. Louis ahead of their Sunday game against the Blues. Reign coach Marco Sturm was forced into lineup changes once again, reuniting Helenius and fellow Kings prospect Franky Pinelli on the third line, where they both contributed to the comeback rally.
Akil Thomas has done everything and more to dazzle upper management over the past two months, and the 24-year-old prospect continued terrorizing the AHL with another goal. Using his patented, hard-nosed game, Thomas would drive the crease for a gritty goal to help lead his team out of an early 3-goal deficit with his 13th point (7G, 6A) in the past 11 games.
Welcome Back, Dell: Sporting teal-colored pads and a helmet of his former team, Aaron Dell debuted for the Reign, marking his first AHL game of the season. He was quickly pressed into action, facing 14 shots in the first period. His new team would limit the Roadrunners to just 15 shots in the final two frames; however, he wasn’t at his best, posting a .828 save percentage in his initial outing.
Power Play Specialists: Coach Sturm and his staff have the Reign firing on all cylinders with the man-advantage. They have scored in nine of the past 11 games on the power play, and boast 12 power play goals over that stretch. Their weekend in Tucson was no exception, going 4-for-9 in a two-game set against the eighth best penalty kill in the league.
Last Minute Misconducts: It was a tame and temperate game compared to the prior meeting on Friday, which saw 84 penalty minutes assessed. Before the final game horn on Saturday, there were only 19 PIMs, of which 15 belonged to Tucson’s Patrik Koch for a head-butting major and game misconduct. Things escalated quickly at the final whistle, with multiple fights and scrums resulting in a near line brawl. Several small skirmishes lasted well over a few minutes. Eight game misconducts were ultimately assessed between the two teams, bringing things to a game total of 104 PIMs. Looking ahead, the clubs will meet up again on Feb. 16-17 in Tucson, for what should be some spirited games.
What to Watch For: At the start of a season that saw a steady goaltending rotation of David Rittich and Erik Portillo, the Reign had predictability in the crease. Now, with a season-ending injury to Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley and the recall of Rittich to the NHL, there appears to be a 3-goalie rotation in Ontario. With only so many games on the schedule and one net to tend, it’s a situation worth monitoring.
Lead photo courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners
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