The Reign could probably sum it up in one word: Ugh.
The biggest surprise as the game started was the absence of Colten Teubert, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 6 last night. Darren McMillan shifted over to partner with Chad Starling and Dan Knapp, appearing in his second game of the series, was paired with David Walker.
Stockton started the game with the most energy, but through the first 8:32 had only one shot off the crossbar, and another off the post, to show for it. Then, holding a man advantage, Robbie Bina used his speed to gain the line, then one-timed it past Jeff Zatkoff from the left circle.
The Reign thought they had the equalizer when Geoff Walker’s snapshot beat Parker Van Buskirk at 10:28, but it was waved off and Bud Holloway was ruled to have interfered prior to the shot (Then why didn’t the refs blow the play dead earlier? That was probably the question floating through a half-empty arena.)
If nothing else, the sequence energized the Reign, who dominated 4-on-5 play then got a goal from Andrew Martens at 13:05 to make it 1-1.
Where their momentum went at that point is anyone’s guess. Zatkoff got deked out of position by a charging Cory Urquhart for a goal at 14:31. Then Igor Gongalsky whipped one through from long range at 15:28. Then James Bates scored a very similar goal to Gongalsky’s on the power play at 18:46. Suddenly it was 4-1, the crowd was booing, and the second period couldn’t begin soon enough.
On first two periods:
I though we did a good job defensively the first two periods. They had probably 20 (actually 19) shots, but I don’t think any of them were too difficult. I thought they made a stronger push in the third. Give ‘em credit, they played well. We don’t want to lose, they don’t want to lose. They battled back and made a game out of it.
On playing with a lead:
Ask any goalie, it settles you down and makes it easier to play with a lead, protecting something, than it is from behind. It’s a little relief for you.
On stepping up in Game 6:
It’s an elimination game, it brings out the best in people. I didn’t want my season to be over with, and I don’t think any of the guys in the locker room wanted it to be over. A big part of it was the way you saw our team played. We did really good the first two periods. We stuck together even though they got those goals in the third period, we stuck together and we regrouped. We shut em down those last four minutes and came out with the win. At this point of the year, it doesn’t matter if you win 5-0 or 4-3. Both the same.
On playing back-to-back games at this point in the season:
I should be fine. If you look at the way the series is set up, we play Friday, Saturday, then we had Sunday and Monday off, played again Wednesday. There’s been a ton of time to rest. We played four in fives throughout the season, so in a back to back I should be fine.
On the mentality coming into Game 7:
I was actually thinking about it by the pool before we played yesterday that we don’t want to leave here. We love it here too much. When you have that desperation feeling — we knew if we could get through today and get another game today, anything could happen. I don’t want to go back to New Hampshire. It would be cold, rainy.
On scoring first four goals:
Definitely one of our priorities was getting the first one. We’ve definitely had to play from behind in the games we’ve lost. We knew that that was key. We just have to keep rolling. When you have that feeling that you could go home, you just dig deep and make your stand.
On his two goals:
The first one, I just kind of got open in front of the net. (Andrew) Martens gave me a great pass, I just stuffed it in there. He gave me a little bit of room — the goalie just left his pad, left a little room on the post and I put in there. The second one, (Chad Starling) dumped it in the corner. I came in and just drove it to the net. Coach talks about taking pucks to the net. Anything can happen when there’s a scrum in front. I ended up getting my own rebound, finishing it. Definitely both hard-work goals.
Have you figured out how to fluster the Stockton goalie, Parker Van Buskirk?We got the first one, and that always makes him think. The goalie’s young and just came out of juniors. We know we can get into his mind a little bit. He’s not a well-seasoned veteran goalie or anything. He’s new and he’s nervous and he hasn’t been with this team very long. We know that if we can get on him and get the shots on, we’ll end up winning games.
How hard is it to maintain win-or-go-home mentality again today?
It’s not hard at all. We’re going into Game 7 this week, I don’t think there’s a person on this team that won’t be ready for tomorrow’s game. They’re going to be ready too. It’s going to be one hell of a game, just like tonight. When both teams are up against their backs up against the wall, one team’s going home tomorrow night. It’s a big, big game. Now I see that we have even more of a chance of staying, so I’ve got to be on tomorrow.
Best game of the season?
Take away the last 15 minutes of the third period, but they pushed hard. We came back on them a couple times, and they wanted to try to eliminate us today. We’re able to live for another day. Tomorrow’s Game 7, we hope to get the same result but we’ll wait and see what occurs.
What needs to improve?
We just got to be smarter in the (defensive) zone. They take the walls away and they forecheck hard. The first two periods, we were able to bump it through the middle and it’s one of those things — the momentum, and the feeling — we gave them momentum from some of our plays where they were coming down the walls and creating looks that we don’t need to give back. We just need to be a bit more puck-savvy when we have possession.
Importance of scoring first?
I think it was important for Jeff to have two periods where he shut them out and played very well. We’ll watch the second one, where it goes over his head and into the net; what are you going to do, it’s one of those weird bounces. I’ll see, I’ll watch the video there. We gave up the line on the third (goal). We’ve got to be stronger there defensively. We just got to tighten up a little bit and as a team holding the line and taking away their offensive off the rush.
Jeff looked quicker today; did you see fatigue the first 5 games?
No, he’s not tired. We had a day off between every game. He’s fresh as a daisy and dying to play tomorrow. He looked fresh off the puck, he responded. He’s not happy with the way he’s played throughout the whole series. He’s been decent but he’s not happy with how it’s gone, and he showed a lot of grit and character today to step up and play a heck of a game for his teammates.
On playing Andrew Martens at forward 5-on-5:
We’re trying to find someone with Franny and Rheaultsy for a long time here. Marty’s got a lot of speed and he likes to hit guys, because he’s played D before and he knows it’s not fun when you go back there. I thought he added a lot of speed and grit for us. He got tired as the game went on because he forgot how hard it was to skate all the time as a forward.
On Darren McMillan returning to the lineup:
I thought he played really well and really smart. He was really smart with the puck. Stockton does a really good job getting pucks behind the net, getting our feet turned then coming behind us. He’s able to shoulder-check and make the solid play.
It ain’t over yet.
The Reign scored the first four goals, then had to hold on as Stockton tried in vain to tie the game with three goals in the third period. Sort of reminiscent of Game 2, with the teams’ roles reversed. Your official scoresheet is here.
Also, it looks like Las Vegas tied up its series with Bakersfield with a 3-1 win. The other Pacific Division semifinal will be decided tomorrow night in Las Vegas; game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Stockton Thunder will take the ice without two of their better players in Game 6 at Citizens Business Bank Arena tonight.
From Herbert Atienza at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital:
Legends of the National Hockey League (NHL) will face off on the ice this week with local amateurs in a friendly game of hockey to raise money for Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
The Thunder are suddenly making some noise, up 3 games to 2 in the series, which shifts back to Ontario on Tuesday.
The Reign fell behind 2-0 tonight and never caught up; the first team to score has won all four games of the series. The official scoresheet is here.
More in tomorrow’s editions.
Andrew Martens, who has spent all of April with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, is in the lineup for the Reign tonight for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with Stockton.
Martens was released yesterday from his pro tryout agreement by Toronto after 18 games, including two in the Calder Cup playoffs. During the regular season he was the Reign’s fifth-leading scorer, and the leading scorer among defensemen, with 31 points (7 goals, 24 assists) despite playing just 48 of the team’s 73 games.
Talk about a rollercoaster game.
The Reign gave up the first goal, climbed back up 2-1, got behind 3-2, then 4-2, then scored twice in the final two minutes — with P.J. Atherton in the penalty box — to send it to overtime.
But the puck never seemed to leave the Reign zone in OT and, 24 seconds after one Stockton goal was waved off, James Bates one-timed a shot past Jeff Zatkoff to win it, 5-4.
Asked if they need to do anything differently going forward, Atherton said “we’ve got to keep an even keel and stick to the system that got us here.”
Your official scoresheet is here; more details in tomorrow’s editions.