A three-goal second period propels the Henderson Silver Knights to a 4-1 win over the Ontario Reign on Friday at Toyota Arena.
For the first time this season, the Ontario Reign have lost three games in a row as they fell to the Henderson Silver Knights 4-1 in the final game of 2021 — on New Year’s Eve.
The first period ended with the visitors holding a 1-0 lead off a goal from Jake Leschyshyn who tipped in Daniil Miromanov‘s point shot. It came on an extended period of time of 6-on-5 play for Henderson with a delayed penalty to Samuel Fagemo. The Silver Knights were able to take advantage.
Ontario may not have played badly in the first period, but the second was a different story. Henderson completely controlled the middle 20 minutes, scoring three goals and outshooting the Reign 14-5 to give them a 4-0 lead after two periods.
Garret Sparks made 26 saves and has now lost four-straight games for the Reign after starting his season 4-0.
Jiri Patera stopped 24 of 25 shots for Henderson to pick up his second win of the season.
Here’s what stood out on Friday:
1. Offensive struggle
It’s been rare that the Reign have had a game where they struggled to generate offense, but it happened on Friday. In the first period, they had several shifts that were spent in the Henderson zone but were not able to get many shots on goal despite the in-zone pressure.
Martin Frk tried to hit T.J. Tynan at the back door in the opening 20 minutes which just missed, and Adam Johnson had a chance on the power-play off a feed from Quinton Byfield, but they were not able to get anything to go in the net.
While it’s worth pointing out that this was another game where the Reign played with just 11 forwards, they had plenty of firepower with the likes of Tynan, Frk, Byfield, Vilardi, and Anderson-Dolan. I think part of what’s hindering the offense is the depth on the blueline. While Spence, Helge Grans, Jacob Moverare were all in action in this one, Ontario dressed seven defensemen on Friday — three of which were recent ECHL signees.
Also, Sean Durzi has been in Los Angeles and we shouldn’t forget that Kale Clague is no longer with the organization. Any team losing its best two defensemen is surely going to see negative effects at some point, particularly when they are both puck-moving, offensive-minded blueliners.
2. Sparks hung out to dry
The box score may not reflect it, but Sparks was solid in this game. He gave up a goal on a redirection from a 6-on-5 in the first period where he wasn’t overly tested. In the second, however, he made a handful of tough saves early on in the period. The goals that he gave up included a point-blank shot before he was able to get set on a Henderson power-play and another goal on a partial breakaway after Blake Siebenaler fell down.
To win a game where you don’t play your best, you’d need your goalie to steal one of those. With the offense struggling as much as it did though, it likely wouldn’t have mattered.
This is particularly noteworthy since the Reign did not have Matt Villalta available tonight. Ontario had to utilize the Emergency Backup Goaltender (EBUG) on Friday, so we could see Sparks again on Sunday.
Ontario is dressing an EBUG tonight with Southern California native Billy Blase, who is wearing #1. https://t.co/SVHLxMhuRX
— Jared Shafran (@ShafReign) January 1, 2022
3. Byfield still searching for first point
This was the fifth game of the season for LA Kings top prospect Quinton Byfield and he continues to try and find the scoresheet.
He registered one shot-on-goal in this game as there just wasn’t much to speak of for the Reign, offensively.
That said, he continues to look good in terms of his skating. He hasn’t been behind the pace at all, even on Friday as he was playing his first game in nearly two weeks. The 6-foot-4 center has looked good on the penalty-kill and made a nice backhand pass to Johnson on the power-play in the first period to set up a scoring opportunity.
I wouldn’t read too much into the production not being there just yet.
The Reign is back in action on Sunday when the Bakersfield Condors come to Toyota Arena.