The Ontario Reign fell behind early and never recovered, allowing four goals in the first ten minutes in Colorado on Tuesday.
Poor goaltending in the first period put the Ontario Reign in an early hole. They dropped the first game of the Pacific Division semifinals to the Colorado Eagles, 10-1.
COL: Keaton Middleton (1)
COL: Ryan Wagner (2) ASST: Keaton Middleton (1)
COL: Keaton Middleton (2)
COL: Alex Beaucage (2) ASST: Sampo Ranta (1)
COL: Mikhail Maltsev (2) ASST: Jean-Luc Foudy (1)
COL: Mikhail Maltsev (3) ASST: Jacob MacDonald (1), Oskar Olausson (2)
COL: Andreas Englund (1) ASST: Jean-Luc Foudy (2) Alex Beaucage (2)
Here are four takeaways from a Game 1 that the Ontario Reign will look to put behind them:
1. Sloppy play
Yes, we have to talk about the first period. None of us want to, but we are going to have to. With 11:45 left in the first period, the Eagles iced the puck. The score was 3-1 Colorado, and there were eight total shots on net. Matt Villalta was chased from the net after making only two saves (and allowing a goal from center ice), and David Hrenak came in for relief.
The question is: what happened?
Sloppy defensive play and very poor goaltending quickly put the Reign in the hole. By the end of the first period, the Eagles had a 6-1 lead. Ontario seemed sluggish and not really into the game from the jump and will need to play a lot harder the rest of the series to stand a chance of winning.
Ontario gave up two power play goals and two short-handed goals in the first period alone. That cannot happen.
As a silver lining, it took almost nine minutes for Colorado to get a shot on goal in the second period.
2. Special kind of a letdown
The second period could have been a moment for the Reign to make a statement. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it. Kiefer Sherwood took a major penalty for cross-checking and was tossed from the game, giving the Reign a five-minute power play.
The main problem with this was that the Reign got nothing out of it. Ontario put eight shots on goal during the power play but had nothing to show for it by the end. In addition to the offensive onslaught from Colorado, the Eagles also got strong goaltending from Justus Annunen.
In the preview for this series, Hockey Royalty discussed the importance of special teams. In the series opener, Colorado controlled the special teams game. Ontario’s first-place regular-season power play couldn’t find the back of the net in its six attempts.
The inability to convert on the major power play early in the second period deflated any comeback chances. Following the power play, the frustration of the Ontario Reign became evident as the game got a bit chippy and more physical.
Because of this, the Reign ended up taking more penalties than they really should have. With the Eagles going 4-for-5 on their power play, the Reign’s problems a man down continued. Colorado was almost surgical as they picked their spots and continued to expose the weaknesses the Reign carried with them.
3. Hope on the horizon
The thing about playoff hockey is that it ebbs and flows. It’s a back and forth from minute to minute within the games. Momentum doesn’t necessarily carry over from game to game, and it isn’t as big a factor as it can be in the regular season. The Ontario Reign can look forward to Game 2 and answering for this first game.
They can make themselves harder to play against, and they can tighten up their defensive game to ensure no more surprises as there were in Game 1.
Colorado has been a formidable opponent for the Reign throughout the season, blowing them out multiple times. But if Ontario can get their special teams together and get the goaltending back to where it’s supposed to be, they can put this game behind them. Earning a split on the road in a tough building would be a great way to move forward as a unit.
4. Thomas, Turcotte questionable
While the return of Tyler Madden was a welcome site for Reign fans, when the lineup was released before puck drop, there was one notable absence – Akil Thomas. The 22-year-old has been on fire of late but was an unexpected scratch for the series opener. On the broadcast, Reign Insider Jared Shafran mentioned that Thomas was dealing with a family issue. Hopefully, all is well, and Thomas will be able to return to the lineup.
In some more troubling news, Alex Turcotte took a high hit as he entered the Colorado zone early in the first period. He was very slow getting up and struggled to get back to the bench. He did not return to the game, and his status for the rest of the series is unknown.
Game 2 is on Friday, May 13th. Puck drop is at 6:05 pm PT.