Looking to snap their skid of just one win in eight games, the Reign came out of the break with a strong start against the slumping Henderson Silver Knights at Toyota Arena on Saturday. Despite holding a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, it took less than 30 seconds for the visitors to tie things up and eventually force overtime, before ultimately handing Ontario a 4-3 loss in the shootout.
After exchanging chances early, the contest would settle in favor of the home team via pace of play and score, as the Reign took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission. Boasting a perfect record of 18 wins in 18 games when leading after two periods, the Reign held the road team to zero shots on goal until midway through the third. And then it happened.
On a routine dump-in play by Henderson, the tide turned. Going behind his net to stop the play, rookie netminder Erik Portillo collected the puck and sent an errant pass directly onto the stick of an opponent. The gaffe would be good for a goal in a tender-less net, cutting things to 3-2. Just 26-seconds later, ex-Reign forward Sheldon Rempal would even the score on a brilliant individual effort.
Five additional minutes of overtime didn’t solve anything, so it was off to the shootout, where Henderson scored once and Ontario missed all three tries (by Taylor Ward, Sammy Fagemo, and Franky Pinelli). The loss extended the Reign losing streak to five games.
Down with the Sickness: Player illness ran through the team, as it usually does mid-winter. Kings prospects Martin Chromiak and Samuel Helenius were both out of the lineup, leaving the forward group short of a full squad and requiring defender Cole Krygier to play offense. The Reign were only able to ice 17 skaters instead of the traditional 18. Coach Marco Sturm also reported that Hayden Hodgson lost eight pounds while sick over the All-Star break.
Akil Thomas, enough said: The fourth-year pro has collected points in six of the past seven games (2G, 6A) after picking up another assist. He centered a new-look second line on Friday, with wingers Tyler Madden and Charles Hudon, as well as played his usual bumper position on the first power play unit.
Rookie Time: Erik Portillo’s freshman year has been everything that upper management could ask for. He’s putting up impressive numbers (2.61 GAA, .917 SV%), but also gaining valuable experience. In a situation where he made impressive saves all night sans one costly mistake, the lumbering Swede continues to assimilate to the pro game on his way to being the impact player that the organization wants him to become.
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