(photo: Dinur Blum)
The Ontario Reign fell to the Idaho Steelheads 4-3 on Wednesday night at Idaho’s CenturyLink Arena. After suffering two consecutive losses, they were hoping that this would be the comeback game they needed to start getting back on track. The Reign previously lost against the Steelheads just under a month earlier at their home opener.
The first of three games against the also powerful Steelheads was expected to be a good one because both teams have specialties in completely different areas. The Reign have the benefit of great power plays and penalty kills compared to Idaho. The Reign have 84.6 percent of their penalties killed which may give them somewhat of a competitive edge. What the Steelheads do have is their ability to maintain puck possession and forward Jason Bast who is overall sixth in the league with 49 shots on goal.
The first period was opened by Idaho’s charge with a set up by defenseman Charlie Dodero and stuffed in past Reign goalie Jussi Olkinuora by forward Steve Quailer at 7:16. That did not discourage the Reign from wanting redemption. Reign’s Gasper Kopitar went up the right wing and shot but was initially blocked by Steelheads defenseman Colin Shea but left winger Everett Sheen grabbed back the puck and snapped it through to tie the game at 17:49. Idaho had a considerably larger number for shots on goal compared to Ontario at 17-3. The first period ended with a tie to start the night with a fight to the finish edge.
Ontario started pulling the reigns harder during the second period and scored two quick goals to lead against Idaho. Left winger Maxim Kitsyn took Tyler Spurgeon‘s rebound and slotted it. Judd Blackwater smacked the puck right through Idaho goalie Henri Kiviaho at 1:50. Reign defenseman Matt Register broke through a Steelheads pass and sent a pass over to Tristan King in the neutral zone. He blew into the offensive zone and snapped a wrist shot at 6:27. The second ended with Idaho trailing 3-1. Things were finally starting to look up in the Ontario zone. They woke up after the first period with now 14 shots on goal which reflected in the two goals they quickly pulled.
During the third period, the Reign started out strong once again but let go of the handles too soon. Just a few minutes into the period, Idaho tried to shoot one past Olkinuora but he saved it thanks to those leg pads. The Steelheads proved that they had no intentions of being done yet. They came back on a four-by-four play when Quailer snuck his way around the back of the Reign’s net, passed the puck to Bast who shot and scored at 5:27. At 9:13, Steelheads forward Alex Belzile shot a long range pass from Quailer which made it into the net once again. Dodero received a pass from Wade Macleod and drove the puck into the net at 15:52. Olkinuora pulled for an extra man and a faceoff in the neutral zone began with 20 seconds left and no man in the net. Regulation ended with a win from the Steelheads at 4-3.
Idaho surpassed Ontario with 34 overall shots on goal to the Reign’s 27. Goalies Olkinuora had a total of 30 saves while Kiviaho took the win of the night with 24. Ontario will be back at it on Thursday for their second game against the Idaho Steelheads to try to win their throne back.