Garret Sparks was strong in his return, and the Ontario Reign made things interesting late but will head home in an 0-2 series hole.
A late third-period comeback was thwarted by a shot from the point that just squeaked in as the Ontario Reign fell to the Colorado Eagles 5-4 in overtime, going down 2-0 in the series.
ONT: Frederic Allard (1)
COL: Jayson Megna (4) ASST: Shane Bowers (2), Martin Kaut (4)
ONT: Vladimir Tkachev (2)
COL: Jean-Luc Foudy (3), Rob Hamilton (1), Jordan Gross (6)
Here are four takeaways after the Ontario Reign’s overtime loss.
1. Good goaltending can get you far
Matt Villalta was called up to Los Angeles during the day, sparking a discussion about who would be in net for the Reign for Game 2. It came down to the master of flow himself, Garrett Sparks. The 28-year-old was great in net for Ontario, especially in the second period. He let in a goal during the period, but he made 17 saves, including several tough ones.
Seeing his first action in over two months, Sparks turned away 36 shots and nearly a 37th, but the winner found its way behind him. He didn’t allow any bad goals or have any positional miscues. He was beaten by good shots.
Ontario’s lack of discipline was a big problem in the game. The Reign was shorthanded seven times, five of which came in the first period. There were multiple skirmishes after whistles that resulted in extra penalties. There’s always talk of the mental game of the playoffs, and that was more evident than ever on Friday as the Reign became unglued. Stars T.J. Tynan and Martin Frk each spent 12 minutes in the box on Friday.
While playing a strong physical game is a good thing most of the time, it can have a costly downside. If Ontario is going to come back in this series, it won’t be by sitting in the box.
3. Getting shut down
The Reign came into this series as a high-flying offensive powerhouse. The expectation was a high-scoring series, and it has been in a roundabout way. The total number of goals scored in the series sits at 20, but Colorado has scored 15 of those goals. The Eagles are meticulously shutting down the Reign’s top scoring lines, and they are hemming them into their own zone more often than not. Depth will prove to be critical as the series goes on. Akil Thomas’ goal to cut Colorado’s lead to 4-3 and the tying goal from Vladimir Tkachev late is proof that hard work pays off and that you can’t be too top-heavy to win in the playoffs.
4. Time for a gut check
This is it. The Reign are facing elimination from the Calder Cup Playoffs. Sunday’s game will be a real test of how well Ontario can answer and how good being at home can feel for a team that needs morale. In the playoffs, your fans can really get you going at Toyota Center has to be jam-packed with loud, supportive Reign fans.
This is, to say the least, unexpected. The AHL’s MVP and one of the most potent offenses in the AHL are being trounced by a well-structured Colorado team. In a regular-season where Tynan and Frk combined for 171 points in 120 games between the two, Tynan has just two points while Frk has four in the first two games. They’ll need to string together a couple of big games to get the team back into the series.
Ontario was one of the AHL’s best teams on home ice during the 2021-22 regular season. With the remaining games in this series being played in Ontario, they’ll need to continue that, or else this playoff run could end a lot sooner than expected.
Puck drop for Game 3 is scheduled for 8:00 pm PT on Sunday. See you there, Reign fans!