Ontario Reign Quinton Byfield

Quinton Byfield’s overtime winner caps off the Ontario Reign’s comeback, beating the Bakersfield Condors 3-2 on Sunday.

After going five games without a point, Quinton Byfield picked a perfect time for his first one of the season, scoring at 2:14 of overtime to lift the Ontario Reign over the Bakersfield Condors.

The win gives the Reign 31 points (15-6-2-1) which is second in the Pacific Division. Bakersfield is 8-8-3-3 and by winning percentage is in seventh place.

For the second straight game, the Reign were held off the scoreboard through 40 minutes. In what was an evenly played opening period, Bakersfield controlled the second – scoring both of their goals while putting 18 shots on Garret Sparks.

Tim Schaller opened the scoring just past the midway point of the second period off a feed from Luke Esposito. Later in the middle frame, Cooper Marody put a bit of a bouncing puck at Sparks, who didn’t seem to handle it cleanly. On a scramble in front, the puck eventually crossed the goal line. Though it is impossible to see from this angle, the officials did confirm the goal after a review:

On Friday, it wasn’t until the game was well out of hand before Ontario would get on the board. Against Bakersfield, Gabriel Vilardi fired a wrist shot past Stuart Skinner from the right circle to get the Reign within one 3:47 into the third:

Shortly after the Vilardi goal, Ontario had a good looking power play but Skinner made two big saves, including this one:

Skinner made 36 saves on the night, losing his second straight overtime game.

A late penalty to Vincent Desharnais gave Ontario a power-play with 2:47 to play. Just as the Reign pulled Sparks for the extra attacker, Jordan Spence put the puck on goal where Jaret Anderson-Dolan was digging. It was Samuel Fagemo, who just so happened to be the extra attacker, who eventually corralled it and put it upstairs over Skinner’s pad to tie the game with 1:52 left.

During the first shift of the overtime period, Bakersfield had a 3-on-1 that Spence made a key block on.

On the goal, Byfield picks up the puck just inside the Condors’ blueline and circles back into the neutral zone to regroup. Bakersfield allowed Byfield far too much space in the neutral zone and he took advantage:

Here are three things that stood out on Sunday:

1. Sparks ends losing streak

It wasn’t just the Reign that snapped their losing streak in this game, goaltender Garret Sparks did the same. After starting the season 4-0, he hadn’t won a game for Ontario since November 13th, losing four games along the way.

He was excellent against the Condors, making 34 saves including two great saves in the third. The first came on a Marody 2-on-1 effort that Sparks flashed the left pad. He made things interesting for himself on the second one. On a dump in, he misplayed it right to Adam Cracknell but recovered to make an outstanding blocker save to keep the score at 2-1.

It was the second game in a row that Matt Villalta was unavailable but with the Reign not playing again until Saturday, he could be back by then.

2. Another poor second period

The Reign dug themselves a hole in this one thanks to another lackluster second period. The shots ended up 18-14 in favor of Bakersfield but at one point, Ontario was being outshot 11-2.

In the last three games, the Reign have been outscored 7-1 in the second period. Last Wednesday they allowed two goals to Bakersfield while being outshot 13-8 and on Friday gave up three goals to the Henderson Silver Knights, being outshot 14-5.

These things are often flukey and there may not be a smoking-gun reason as to why all of a sudden the second periods have been an issue, but it certainly has been lately.

3. Line shuffle to get Fagemo going?

(I promise I had this thought before his game-tying goal).

Samuel Fagemo entered the game with eight goals and 11 points in 24 games. Those eight goals are tied for second on the team, but it’s been a while since he’s potted one. The 21-year-old had not scored in seven straight games and just once in the 11 games before Sunday.

Against Bakersfield, Fagemo played with T.J. Tynan and Vladimir Tkachev, the best two playmakers on the Reign. Though the goal he scored did come in a 6-on-4 situation, he had multiple opportunities in this game. The Swedish winger had two 2-on-1 chances in the game and ended with four shots on goal. In his last five games combined he had that same tally of shots.

How do you try to break a goal-scoring winger out of a slump? Put him with Tynan and Tkachev.

4. Byfield announces his presence

I have mentioned throughout these pre-and-post game articles that we shouldn’t expect Byfield in Ontario for long. Indeed, the Kings called him up before Christmas but he then landed in the NHL’s COVID protocol.

His play was strong in Ontario up until his call-up despite not having any points and it was again on Sunday. Byfield had a game-high five shots on goal and the goal he scored in overtime is an example of what he’s capable of.Β His combination of size, speed, and hands make him extremely dangerous. The Newmarket, ON native is a weapon that the Kings could use in their lineup in Los Angeles.

The Reign are off until Saturday when they host the San Diego Gulls.

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