The Reign managed to take three of a possible six points from the Grizzlies, the first-place team in the other (Mountain) Division, on the strength of a Pat Bowen point shot that got through at 2:03 of overtime.
The Mountain trip isn’t over yet – its fourth and final game awaits tomorrow night against the Idaho Steelheads – but it’s off to a decent 1-1-1 start. The win allowed the Reign (14-26-1-2) to keep pace with the Victoria Salmon Kings (18-24-1-2) and remain eight points out of the seventh and final Western Conference playoff position with two games in hand.
And in the midst of an impossibly lousy season at home, it’s no small feat that the Reign are now 10-11-1-1 on the road. They can pull to .500 away from CBBA (ignoring the OT/SO columns) with a win in Boise.
The Reign continued their trend of strong penalty killing, going a perfect 4-for-4 and 11-for-12 on the trip so far. They can only hope the four goals are a trend — Monday marked only the second time in their last 15 games that the Reign have scored more than three.
Chaz Johnson and Michael Pelech scored at even strength, and David Walker snuck a goal through on the power play. After Pelech’s marker at 15:17 of the second period, nobody scored again until Bowen’s overtime winner. Dusty Collins had two assists, and Johnson, Bowen, Jordan Morrison and Aaron Lewadniuk had one helper each.
Netminder Beau Erickson stopped 35 of 38 shots for the win. Since allowing seven goals against the Stockton Thunder on Jan. 21, he’s given up 3, 2, and 3 while starting every leg of the Utah series.
Where the penalty kill has picked up, the power play has plodded. The Reign went 1-for-8 with the man advantage Monday to finish 2-for-21 in the series. They were also outshot again, albeit barely (38-37), and Utah averaged 37 shots on goal in the three games. That’s too many.
A regulation loss Tuesday to the Steelheads would be tough to swallow. Teams usually aim to at least split their points on the road, and an overtime or shootout loss would give the Reign 4 of a possible 8 points on this trip.
However, if this season-long trend continues — and 43 games isn’t exactly a small sample size – it’s not unreasonable to ask the Reign to do the opposite: Try to break even at home and take a majority of the points on the road. Maybe a win is needed Tuesday.
More in tomorrow’s editions, including a lot from Manchester Monarchs general manager (and Kings assistant GM) Ron Hextall about the paucity of prospects being assigned to the Reign.