(photo credit: Dinur Blum)
The Ontario Reign ended 2014 and started the new year in the best way possible with four consecutive wins to add to their record. After a few inconsistencies and losses throughout December, they made a total 360 degree comeback to set the tone on how they want the rest of their season to be. At this rate, there’s no doubt that they’ll end on a good note by the time spring comes around but they have to keep the ball rolling at this momentum.
Dec. 30 win vs. Thunder
The Reign defeated the Stockton Thunder 3-1 in the first of the back-to-back games. Things were looking shaky already in the first period when Stockton’s Peter Sivak opened up the scoreboard. His goal was the only score for the period but Ontario bounced back during the second with two goals from Judd Blackwater. Blackwater scored on a power-play at 5:53 then slotted one in past Thunder goaltender Kent Simpson at 13:58.
Both teams went back and forth during the third period and when it looked like things weren’t going anywhere, Stockton pulled Simpson for an extra attacker to try to get that one last chance. Reign’s Derek Couture took advantage of the empty net and scored the game winner at 19:06. Jussi Olkinuora came through for his team with 24 saves for the night.
Dec. 31 win vs. Thunder
There’s no better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with another “W” added to the list. The game was close but Ontario brought down the Thunder 4-3 in regulation. Stockton came back ready to fight and it showed with two goals in the first period coming from John Ryder and Sivak at 5:58 and 6:58. Couture got the Reign back on track late in the period with a power-play shot at 16:39.
The Thunder kept their lead going when Ryan Hayes snapped a shot in at 7:35 of the second period. Things were going back and forth once again as the Reign started trailing much closer behind thanks to a shot and score from Geoff Walker at 11:53.
Joe Cannata kept Stockton out for the entire third period just in time to have his team wake up and pull ahead. Blackwater, who has been on fire lately, added another goal to the score sheet with assists from Tyler Scofield and Matt White. Rocco Carzo won the game for Ontario at 9:55 with the final goal of the night.
Jan. 3 win vs. Condors
Ontario kept their California victories strong after making a quick visit to the Bakersfield Condors. They added another win under their belts with a final score of 4-3 and sent the Condors back to their trees. Things looked bad for the Reign when Bakersfield ended the first period with three goals from Nick MacNeil, Brendan Brooks and Sebastien Sylvestre. Couture, being the hero he is once again, got his team going with a late goal during the first at 18:01. At that rate, it seemed like they would never be able to comeback from the score already at 3-1.
Olkinuora stepped up his game for the second period and it proved to be the best move as Bakersfield scored no other goals for the rest of the night. Walker and White both scored to even up the game at 12:48 and 19:41 but Ontario wasn’t done yet. Scofield took the game winner of the night at 19:55 of the third period when things were leaning towards the game going into extra time.
Jan. 4 win vs. Thunder
The fourth and final game of the new year week turned out as great at the last three but things were too close for comfort. The Reign kept their throne against the Thunder after a score of 3-2. Ontario completely dominated the first period with an early goal from Walker and one just 26 seconds after from Gasper Kopitar at 4:40. Walker wasn’t through with Stockton and scored his second goal of the night at 12:56.
The second period went scoreless for both teams and the third was Stockton’s last chance to even get up on the scoreboard. They accepted the challenge and Hayes scored their first power-play goal of the night at 1:29 of the third period. James Henry was right behind him with a power-play goal of his own at 7:56 but Cannata made sure to not let them have that last goal to tie up the game. Cannata took the win with 28 saves and his team took their fourth win in a row.
The Ontario Reign did better than expected by ending December like this. It’ll still take lots of hard work to keep that kind of speed going but time is grinding down and it’s time for them to get a big streak going. They have a two-day break and will be back playing against the Condors on Jan. 7.