Goaltending and Jordan Spence were among the bright spots in the preseason opener for the Ontario Reign. Takeaways from the 4-2 loss to the San Diego Gulls

We got our first look at the Ontario Reign in game action on Thursday night as they fell 4-2 to the San Diego Gulls. No one will lose sleep over a loss in a preseason opener, but what were some things that we can take away?

There were some positives and negatives across the board in this one. Here are some random thoughts and takeaways (dare I say….Reign Drops? No? I’m sorry)

Out-possessed

It wasn’t a great showing in terms of puck possession for the Ontario Reign. Overall, San Diego out-attempted Ontario 77-55. At 5-on-5, it was a 69-53 edge for the Gulls.

I won’t dwell too much on this. Ontario was missing a number of regulars, including what we’d expect to be three of their top four defensemen in Kale Clague, Sean Durzi, and Jacob Moverare. The likes of Christian Wolanin and Austin Strand are also still at NHL training camp, and that doesn’t even include the forwards absent from this one.

There will be a different lineup come Monday night. I’d expect a better performance as the roster gets a little bit more settled.

Strength Between The Pipes

Ontario was on their heels from the get-go, and it’s safe to say they were fortunate to escape the first period 0-0. Jacob Ingham was particularly impressive. He stopped all 20 shots he faced during his 28:52 of ice time, and many of them were high-quality chances.

John Lethemon was solid as well, stopping 15 of the 18 shots he faced in 29:27 of work after coming in for Ingham midway through the second. It’s very hard to fault him on the first and third goals as they went off players in front of the net. Though, he’d probably tell you he’d like the Alex Limoges breakaway goal back.

Overall, it was good to see the goaltending start off on solid footing here. The likely Reign starter Matt Villalta already has a shutout under his belt from the Rookie Faceoff in Arizona, so positives all around in the preseason for the Ontario netminders.

Tynan, Sutter Lines Effective

On the offensive side of the puck, I thought the best line for the Reign was that of Tyler MaddenTJ TynanMartin Frk. They were, at least, the most consistent. They created a number of chances, including this one at the end of the second period, which would have given the Reign a two-goal lead heading into the third:

In a different way, the Johan SodergranBrett SutterJacob Doty line was also effective. I will say particularly Sodergran. He was heavy in on forechecks and was noticeable every time he was on the ice – though, not always in a positive way. He did set up the Reign’s go-ahead goal off a set faceoff play:

There were a couple of little things with Sodergran that, as a younger player trying to establish himself at the professional level, are mistakes that will need to be cleaned up from his game.

Here he receives a pass from Sutter and is instantly met by a Gulls player. Sodergran can side-step him slightly but is then converged on by two more San Diego players.

It’s a situation where you’d probably like to see Sodergran get the puck into the corner given the heavy pressure rather than try to force something back into traffic. The turnover just inside the offensive blueline ultimately leads to the Gulls’ tying goal:

All in all, though, I did think Sodergran had a strong game. He’s a player I think can carve out a role for himself in the organization.

Doty had a lengthy fight with Morgan Adams-Moisan:

That line made life difficult – at least physically – on San Diego most of the night.

Early Look At The Power-Play

The Reign had just one opportunity, but they made it count with the Aidan Dudas goal, coming at the hands of the second power-play unit.

The first unit had Tynan between Madden and Sutter, with Jordan Spence and Frk at the points. It was good to see Spence get a shot on the power-play (more on him in a bit). With he, Durzi, and Clague, it’ll be interesting to see how the power-play units end up shaking out but based on his performance in this game; it’ll be hard to keep Spence off one of the units.

A quick aside on Helge Grans. He played the point on the second unit and picked up an assist on the Dudas goal. Overall, it was a good showing for Grans, who made some mistakes but looked more comfortable to me in this one than a couple of months ago in the Rookie Faceoff. I particularly liked his calmness with the puck when under pressure. Here he retrieves the puck, and doesn’t throw the puck away, maintains possession under a strong Gulls forechecker and can make a play to start the breakout:

Impressive Showing From Jordan Spence

Spence was probably the best player on the ice for the Reign last night. He picked up his first goal as he swung to the front of the net off a faceoff play and got a nice tip on the puck. Additionally, Spence made a number of subtle plays. Here, he does a very nice job of using his skating and edge-work to buy a half-second of time and space, allowing him to continue through the neutral zone.

He was very good in the offensive zone in this game. Here, Spence recognizes an opportunity for a give-and-go and jumps into the slot area to try and create a scoring opportunity. Nothing came of it, but you like to see this confidence early from an offensive defenseman:

Another example of Spence’s creativity in the offensive zone is here as again. He recognizes the time and space that he has and uses his excellent skating to create a great scoring opportunity:

At the end of the day, a bit of a mixed bag, you could say, in the first preseason game for the team as a whole. Probably about what you’d expect. We’re just days away from rosters being finalized at the NHL level, so we’ll have a clearer look next week as to what the Reign roster will look like, but we got our first taste of it last night.

Preseason Final: Ontario Reign 2, San Diego Gulls 4

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