The Ontario Reign split the weekend series by rallying from a 3-0 deficit to win a 6-5 thriller in a shootout against the Stockton Heat.
STK: Justin Kirkland (20) ASST: Martin Pospisil (16), Luke Philp (22)
ONT: Taylor Ward (1) ASST: Austin Wagner (9)
ONT: Jaret-Anderson Dolan
Five takeaways from yesterday’s win:
1. Slow start, strong finish
It was another slow start for the Ontario Reign against the Stockton Heat yesterday afternoon. Stockton again established a strong forecheck that gave the Reign problems in their own zone causing a few turnovers in the process. Walker Duehr gave Stockton an early lead and Stockton at that point was outshooting Ontario 6-0.
Fast forward to the second period now. The Heat was still up 1-0 until Nick DeSimone and Justin Kirkland scored 2:03 apart to give the Heat a 3-0 lead. It wasn’t looking good for the Reign at all. But, with 6:30 left in the second period, there was at least a 15-20 minute delay because a hit behind the Stockton net caused the stanchion to come off. While that was being fixed both teams were chatting or skating around trying to keep loose for when play resumed.
Soon after play resumed Austin Wagner corralled a rebound off a Kim Nouisiainen shot and beat Heat netminder Dustin Wolf to finally put the Reign on the board. After the delay, it seemed like a totally different Reign team was on the ice and it carried over into the third period and the rest of the game. Perhaps the delay worked in Ontario’s favor.
2. Wild third period
These games against the Stockton Heat this year have provided many thrillers. The third period was probably the craziest period the Reign took part in this year. Samuel Fagemo got the scoring started in the third period with his 27th goal of the year to pull the Reign within one goal. After Heat’s forward Eetu Tuulola took a tripping penalty, Akil Thomas tied the game on the powerplay on a beautiful passing play by T.J. Tynan and Jaret Anderson-Dolan.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 11, 2022
After Martin Frk took a high-sticking penalty, Connor Zary was able to capitalize for the Heat to put them up 4-3 with 6:37 remaining. Just 13 seconds later Martin Frk answered right back. After Cameron Gaunce’s shot from the point got stopped by Wolf, Frk poked home the rebound to tie the game at four apiece. The tie game wouldn’t last long as Justin Kirkland scored off a faceoff to give the Heat a 5-4 lead with 3:21 remaining. But, the Reign had a never say die attitude. Austin Wagner found an open Taylor Ward in the slot whose shot beat Dustin Wolf to tie the score at five. The goal by Ward came 50 seconds after the Heat took the lead and was his first career professional goal.
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) April 11, 2022
Let’s add up the total numbers for that period. Stockton had two goals to Ontario’s four. A total of six goals were scored in a span of 11:01 that period. The crowd was buzzing, it had a playoff feel and was a great 20 minutes of hockey.
3. Timely penalty kills
I want to give a shout-out to the Ontario Reign penalty kill. The Achilles heel for the Reign this year has been their penalty kill. Entering yesterday’s contest they were ranked 29th at 75.3%. The Reign got two big penalty kills when they needed it the most. The first one came with 1:30 left in the 3rd period. In order for Ontario to at least get a point, they would have to kill off the first 90 seconds of the powerplay. They accomplished just that because Reign captain Brett Sutter skated with the puck out of the zone and pinned the puck against the boards in the Heat’s zone while fending off three Heat skaters. That killed off 20 seconds alone. Great work captain!
After killing off the remaining 30 seconds of the penalty, the Reign had to kill off another penalty with 2:13 remaining in the overtime session. Brett Sutter, Cameron Gaunce, Frederic Allard, and goalie Matthew Villalta were tasked with stopping the Heat powerplay. Villalta made a couple of big saves, Allard was great down low, Gaunce blocked a shot and Stockton came away empty-handed on the powerplay as the Reign forced a shootout.
4. Reign survive the shootout
The shootouts haven’t been too kind to the Reign this year. Ontario was 1-4 in shootouts while the Heat were 6-1 in shootouts coming into the game, including Stockton winning both shootouts against the Reign this season. Akil Thomas shot first for the Reign and was denied by Wolf as he tried to go five-hole. Justin Kirkland, who is almost automatic in shootouts, beat Villalta to the glove side to give the Heat a 1-0 lead after the first round of the shootout.
On to round two. Samuel Fagemo shot second for the Reign and he fired one past Wolf’s blocker. Matthew Phillips shot second for the Heat but got denied with a right pad save from Villalta. 1-1 after round two.
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) April 11, 2022
On to round three. Jaret Anderson-Dolan shot next for the Reign and came in slowly and beat Wolf five-hole to put the Reign up 2-1 in the shootout. A stop by Villalta seals a win for the Reign, if not, the game keeps going. Stockton tabbed Glenn Gawdin as the next shooter for the Heat. Gawdin started off wide right and his shot beat Villalta on his blocker side…ping! Hit the post! Reign win! After going 0-for-2 in the shootout against Wolf on Friday night, The Reign went 2-for-3 in yesterday’s shootout to earn a big two points.
5. Losing streak snapped
The shootout win against the Stockton Heat snapped a three-game losing skid for the Reign. Not only was the losing streak snapped, but Ontario also got a crucial two points in the standings to extend their lead on the Colorado Eagles to four points. Perhaps the win can get the team going with just seven games remaining in the season.
UP NEXT: The Ontario Reign train travels to San Diego for a meeting with the Gulls to kick off a three-game series. The first game is Wednesday at 7:00 PM PT.
(Main photo credit: Ontario Reign)