The Reign probably won’t frame Tuesday’s victory and hang it on a wall, but it could serve as a good jolt in the arm. (The team actually has some framed photographs of victory scenes hanging around their locker room, so the cliche works.)
Despite getting pushed around for the better part of three periods, and playing sloppy, turnover-prone hockey on occasion, they left CBBA with a series-opening 4-2 win. Chris Cloud had a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” — a goal, assist and fight — and the line of Geoff Irwin, C.J. Stretch and Derek Couture dominated the Thunder all night, combining for three goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating.
Stretch in particular was being draped all night, but still managed to shed the defense for a goal and two assists — both primary assists from behind the net on goals by Irwin.
“It’s frustrating for him,” Couture said. “Teams are going to look at his stats, see that Stretch is leading the team in points and play hard on him. … He fought through it.”
On a night when the Reign were outshot 37-23, the final score could have been quite a bit higher. But Darcy Kuemper heated up as the game went along, stopping 35 of 37 shots – including 16 in the final 20 minutes.
J.D. Watt had two assists, defenseman Chris Huxley played a solid defensive game and finished plus-3, and Shayne Neigum delivered a spirited bout with Stockton’s Jordan Foreman in the third period.
Plenty more details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few notes that won’t make the paper:
• I saw replays from two different angles of Couture’s second-period hit on Gabriel Levesque, who subsequently left the game on a gurney and was taken to a local hospital. I’m calling it a clean hit but if you need more evidence, consider: No boarding was called on the play — Couture got two minutes for high-sticking — no blindside hit to an opponent’s head was called, and Stockton found no reason to retaliate against Couture the rest of the game.
Looking at the two replays, here’s what I saw:
1. Levesque is high-sticked in the face by Couture as he fires the puck toward the net from the “Michael Golombechi” ad in the Reign zone.
2. Less than a second later, Levesque lets go of the puck. Less than a second after that he’s hit — either in the shoulder or the upper chest — by Couture’s shoulder.
3. Levesque’s momentum is already carrying him toward the boards; after the hit he is sent failing backwards toward the boards.
4. Levesque appears to hit the dasher boards upper-back first. His head could have made simultaneous contact or snapped backward upon impact and then hit the boards – I couldn’t tell.
5. Levesque lies motionless for about two minutes. Two or three witnesses said he wasn’t moving. Two men carry out the gurney from the Zamboni tunnel, walking not running, to the opposite side of the ice.
6. Levesque is lifted onto the gurney, but not lying on his back – lying on his left side. He doesn’t move as he leaves through the nearest door. His face looks odd, as if he’s sleeping, dazed, or passed out – regardless, medics weren’t rushing him out with noticeable urgency.
I plan on speaking with Thunder coach Matt Thomas tomorrow to get an update on Levesque’s status.
• Kuemper said that the long stoppage while Levesque was taken off the ice, and the goal he allowed on the subsequent Thunder power play, were coincidental. “The puck was sitting in front, our guy fell down, I lost sight of the puck and their guy wrapped it around,” Kuemper said.
• The teams combined for 30 penalty minutes but only five power plays. Stockton finished 2 for 3, Ontario 1 for 2.
• Pat Bowen saw a good amount of ice time, playing in all situations, on a pair with Steven Tarasuk in his third game of the season.