Ontario Reign Jordan Spence

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first, the Reign twice came from behind to tie the game, ultimately falling 4-3 in overtime to the Condors.

After nearly two weeks off, the Ontario Reign and Bakersfield Condors required overtime to settle things on Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Reign, Seth Griffith’s breakaway goal won it for the Bakersfield Condors.

The win drops Ontario’s record to 14-5-2-1 while Bakersfield improves to 8-8-1-3.

It was a strong first period for the visiting Reign, out-shooting Bakersfield 12-6. Ontario held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes on a flukey power-play goal that was credited to Gabriel Vilardi:

In the next two periods, Bakersfield controlled the play.

Cooper Marody scored two goals less than two minutes apart to give the hosts a 2-1 second period lead. Bakersfield outshot the Reign 13-8 in the middle frame and held a 20-13 advantage in shot attempts as well.

The Reign would answer back on a much more conventional power-play goal as Vladimir Tkachev played a subtle drop pass to Jordan Spence who patiently waited for his lane to open up before hitting Martin Frk across the zone at the left circle:

Bakersfield poured it on in the third period, out-shooting Ontario 14-6, and would briefly regain the lead on a Raphael Lavoie goal that beat Matt Villalta to the short side from the right circle.

Just 27 seconds later though, Tkachev was at it again. This time making a very nice move just inside the Condors’ blueline before finding a streaking Vilardi who calmly beat Stuart Skinner on the backhand:

The overtime period didn’t last long – just 36 seconds – but it was action-packed. Jacob Moverare forced a turnover at the Ontario blueline and went in on a breakaway, but he didn’t get a clean shot off as he made a move to his backhand. After throwing the puck out front, Frk’s shot went high and wide, ultimately ending up on Vincent Desharnais’ stick who sprung Griffth on the breakaway.

Skinner stopped 24 of 27 shots-against for the Condors, picking up his third win of the season.

Villalta made 30 saves in the loss.

Here are three things that stood out on Wednesday:

1. Undermanned up-front

With forwards T.J. Tynan, Tyler Madden, and Akil Thomas unavailable, the Reign went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in tonight’s game:

Thomas last played on Friday, December 10th where it was presumed he suffered an injury that has kept him out of the lineup. For Tynan and Madden, there has been no official announcement as to why they were unavailable.

It’s worth noting that the team was short behind the bench as well:

The good news is the Los Angeles Kings are home on Thursday and the Reign’s next game is Friday from Toyota Arena, making any necessary transactions a little bit easier.

2. Vladimir Tkachev

In a game that didn’t feature the team’s top playmaker in Tynan, Ontario needed someone to fill that role. While he isn’t necessarily the same dynamic skater that Tynan is, what Tkachev was able to do with the puck tonight showed the playmaking ability that he has.

Looking again at Frk’s powerplay goal, Tkachev can see two and three plays ahead. We can see him direct where he wants the puck to go (up to Spence) knowing that he’s likely to get it right back. While he does mishandle the initial pass, he is so calm under pressure with a little drop pass to Spence to set up the goal:

The play to Vilardi should probably be talked about a lot more. We saw the video of the goal above, but his entry into the zone is so impressive to me, and not a play that a lot of players will make.

As he enters the zone, there isn’t a lot of room here. The defenseman has a pretty tight gap:

The move he makes at the blue line completely takes the immediate defenseman out of the play is an example of his high skill level. He then has to deal with two Condors, but as he was on the Frk goal, is calm with the puck as he hits a wide-open Vilardi.

Tkachev seems to be in no-man’s-land in the organization. With plays like he made tonight, it’s hard to not see where he’d be useful to the Kings.

3. Special Teams

It wouldn’t be an Ontario Reign game without the Special Teams playing a factor. Just as you’d expect, the power-play was effective at 2-for-5 (though in fairness, the first one was a fortunate bounce). The penalty kill on the other hand was not. Ontario’s 30th ranked penalty-kill allowed yet another goal while short-handed.

Even if the first power-play goal wasn’t anything to write home about, the movement was strong overall, particularly from the top unit. Without some of the big guns, Jaret Anderson-Dolan played down low in the 1-3-1 with Frk in his usual spot on the left circle, Vilardi taking over the bumper role, and Tkachev on the right circle. Spence was very good at the top, he’s filled in perfectly since Sean Durzi’s call-up.

If I’m sounding repetitive with the penalty kill, well, it’s because I am. Stop me if you’ve seen this before:

A cross-seam pass to a wide-open opposing forward who can pick his spot from a point-blank position. This type of goal has been a common theme against the Reign penalty kill this year. It is something they have yet to figure out.

This is now the fourth game in a row allowing a power-play goal. Opponents are 6-for-13 (46%) with the man advantage in the last four games against the Reign.

Ontario will return home for a matchup with the Henderson Silver Knights on Friday.

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