Over the summer, the Ontario Reign (currently affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings) brought on an additional affiliation with the Winnipeg Jets in which they received the following players from the Jets/Ice Caps: Defensemen Cody Sol and Zach Bell; forwards Yassin Cisse, Zach O’Brien; and goaltender Michael Hutchinson. They also received defenseman Alex Roach and goaltender Matthias Niederberger from the Manchester Monarchs. All players mentioned above, except Niederberger and O’Brien made their team debut at the home opener.
The defending Pacific Division Champions opened their season at home on Saturday night against division rival the Bakersfield Condors. Prior to the game starting, the Reign introduced their 2013-2014 roster (which can be found here).
An enthusiastic crowd loudly greeted the unveiling of the banner with cheers and whistles. The antsy crowd was buzzing with anticipation prior to puck drop, hoping to see the Reign win their first ever season/home opener (they have won their season opener in prior years, but since they came in 2008, they have not a season opener at home). The Reign got their first chance to put the Condors in a hole less than two minutes in when Gary Steffes took a hooking penalty. They were unable to convert on the power play but kept up excellent pressure. They were rewarded for their hard work just about five minutes later when second year forward Mario Lamoureux managed to sneak the puck past Bakersfield goaltender Paul Karpowich.
Just four minutes later, Bakersfield center Nicholas Tremblay took a tripping minor. This time, the Reign were able to convert on the man advantage and rookie Matt White potted his first goal of the season. The Condors took yet another penalty right after White scored but were able to hold off the Reign on their third PP opportunity of the night.
The second period was similar to first with excellent pressure by the Reign, who spent the vast majority of the period in the Condors’ zone. Credit to Karpowich for standing tall, though. He made some great saves on the PK and on a few of the Reign’s shorthanded bids. He kept his team’s hopes for a win alive with his stellar play and calm net presence.
The third period was a little more even between the two teams, especially as the Reign took several penalties and gave the Condors a couple 5-on-3 opportunities. Almost midway into the final frame, Matt White scored his second goal of the season to officially put the game out of the Condors’ reach.
Backstopping the Reign to victory was Michael Hutchinson, who made his season debut. Hutchinson was not extensively tested throughout the game, but came up big when he called upon, successfully shutting out a tough Condors team. He was named second star of the game (Matt White being first).
The Ontario Reign will be in Stockton on Wednesday, October 23 and return home on the 25th when they host the Florida Everblades. Visit their website at ontarioreign.com to purchase tickets or see the entire schedule for the season.
All photos belong to Dinur Blum.