The Bakersfield Condors spoiled the return of goaltender Garret Sparks as they handed the Ontario Reign their third-straight loss.

The Ontario Reign returned to action on Friday and after opening up a 2-0 first period lead, ultimately fell to the Bakersfield Condors 3-2.

Ontario started the game strong, jumping out to a two goal lead just after the midway point of the first period. Samuel Fagemo got things going with a tip in of Marcus McIvor‘s point shot. Just under three minutes later, Helge Grans scored off a pretty give-and-go play with T.J. Tynan:

The visitors would get one back when Brendan Perlini scored on the power-play to cut the lead in half after one.

It didn’t take long for Bakersfield to tie things up in the second period. Perlini was involved again as he fired a one-timer from the slot which hit the post before Adam Cracknell was able to clean up the rebound, tying the game less than 90 seconds into the middle frame.

The third period was all Bakersfield as they outshot the Reign 11-2 in the first 13 minutes of the period, taking the 3-2 lead in doing so. It was Cracknell again who put home a rebound after a nice play by Cooper Marody cutting in from the left circle.

Here are four takeaways from Friday:

1. The return of Garret Sparks

Making his first appearance since January 8th, Garret Sparks made 34 saves in the loss. He was especially busy in the second and third periods, turning away 25 of the 27 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes.

Sparks didn’t have much chance on any of the goals he gave up. The first was a one-timer from the right circle on a 4-on-3 Bakersfield power play and the second also came off a rebound, with the initial shot coming from a one-timer from the slot. He made a couple of key saves late in the second period to keep the score knotted at two.

Bakersfield continued the pressure in the third period and Sparks held them off the scoresheet as long as he could before Craknell scored on another rebound right in front of the net.

Overall it was a strong showing from the veteran netminder. It’s safe to say the Reign will want to get him some work as the regular season winds down to keep Matt Villalta fresh for the playoffs.

2. No third period push

After taking the 2-0 lead in the first period, there just wasn’t much in the way of an offensive push the remainder of the game. Particularly in the third period, Ontario managed just three shots on goal.

Without sounding like a broken record, this is something the Reign are going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future as some key players are in the NHL. We’re also just a couple of days away from the NHL trade deadline where it’s possible some important pieces could end up being dealt.

In addition, they continue to miss Alex Turcotte and Tyler Madden, who are currently out with injuries.

3. Missed opportunity

Ontario got some help from the Colorado Eagles who knocked off the Stockton Heat 3-2 on Friday. If the Reign were able to pick up two points they would have drew level in points with Stockton for first place in the Pacific Division. The Eagles host the Heat again on Saturday so Ontario will know when they take the ice again on Sunday if they have a chance to get even again in the division.

4. Tynan picks up 64th assist

After being shutout last Saturday, T.J. Tynan got back on the assist train on Friday, registering his league-leading 64th assist on Helge Grans’ goal. Before being blanked in San Diego, Tynan had recorded 15 assists in his previous eight games.

With 16 games remaining, Tynan is now 25 assists away from tying George “Red” Sullivan’s single-season record of 89, set in the 1953-54 season.

The Ontario Reign are back in action on Sunday when they host the Abbotsford Canucks.

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