The Ontario Reign righted the ship, inching out a 4-3 overtime win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday.
ONT: Thomas Hickey (5) ASST Vladimir Tkachev (21)
ONT: Cameron Gaunce (5) ASST Taylor Ward (4), Aidan Dudas (12)
1. Multiple Players, Multiple points
Depth is very key to making sure that you win games as the season wears on. As many fans will point out, lots of teams have a heavy top end and they lose steam after the top six. The Reign got three points out of Vladimir Tkachev and two goals from Cameron Gaunce against Grand Rapids. With all the scoring on the Reign, you would think that players would all have crossed the 20 goals or assist plateau but Gaunce has been fairly quiet throughout the season. He has played 50 games this season for the Reign and had scored just three goals before Sunday. As for Tkachev, he has scored seven points in his last four games with the Reign. However, prior to that, he had three points since the turn of the calendar year. With him chipping in with three assists against the Griffins, it shows the depth the Ontario Reign has and how well they can do when they have contributions throughout the lineup.
2. Villalta has to shut the door
As the starting goaltender for the Reign, Matthew Villalta has been great in keeping the Reign in the win column. The caveat to that is that one of the reasons he is able to do that so well is that the Reign are scoring a massive number of goals. Of the nine games he has played this month for the Reign, there have only been three games Villalta has let in less than three goals. In five games this month, he has had a sub .800 save percentage, something that should always be concerning when it comes to goaltending. That’s not to ignore how good Villalta has been, with his 2.77 GAA and .908 save percentage on the season, it’s the continued progression he has made over the past three seasons in Ontario.
He was solid overall on Sunday. stopping 24 of the 27 shots that came his way.
When you want to be an NHL goalie, sometimes you have to be the AHL starter. Villalta is continuing to develop and work on his game that could see him get an opportunity in the not-so-distant future if the Kings need help in goal. He has the tools to be a great goaltender, but until then it looks like he will continue to carry the Reign when asked.
3. A CRAZY FINISH
Let’s talk about the ending of this game. The shot by Dudas was stopped by Victor Brattstrom and bounced high up into the air. Gaunce followed it down to bat it into the net as it fell below the crossbar. The goal was reviewed and it was found to be a good goal. Gaunce knew, immediately, as he motioned that his stick was down below the crossbar as he celebrated the win.
These situations can be a little strange, especially in overtime when a team is celebrating as a goal is being reviewed. A similar situation of a puck going high up into the air happened in Los Angeles a few years ago when a puck went up to the netting, came back down and went in behind Jonathan Quick. The goal in question tied the game and the Red Wings ended up winning in overtime. A little bizarre of a finish, but the Reign will take the two points and move on to the next game.
A reminder that Wednesday’s Ontario Reign game will require a cup of coffee as opposed to a traditional evening beverage of choice. Ontario will be in San Jose for a 10 am PT tilt against the Barracuda.