The Reign won their fifth straight game, but this one was different from the first four.
Curtis Darling stopped shots on the breakaway, on rebounds – “probably two or three pucks that should have been in the net,” said Karl Taylor – en route to a 28-save victory. The Reign also snuffed out the last four Utah power plays after giving up a backdoor goal early.
This one was a defensive gem – the Reign held an opponent under 30 shots for just the third time in February. Consider that Tony Voce got off four shots short-handed all by himself.
Jon Francisco, Mike Egener and Mike Howe scored goals. Because Las Vegas lost 6-4 to Stockton on Saturday, the Reign moved up to the seventh position in the National Conference standings.
More details in tomorrow’s edition of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.
If you believe that momentum carries over from one game to the next, you’ll like this trend: During their four-game winning streak, the Reign have scored 4, 5, 6 and 7 goals, respectively. The Reign probably won’t need 8 goals to beat the Utah Grizzlies tonight, but if the trend continues, they’ll probably take it.
This offensive about-face comes on the heels of another, less desirable trend. In the six games prior to last Friday’s 4-1 win over the Idaho Steelheads, the Reign were averaging just 1.7 goals per game. The lone win in that stretch was a 5-3 victory over the Stockton Thunder; take away that game and their goals-for average was a paltry 1.0.
The Reign got back to practice today at Citizens Business Bank Arena and are approaching the happy part of their schedule: 15 of their next 17 games are at The Bank, following a brutal stretch of 24 of 30 on the road.
After losing their fourth straight game Friday in Utah, the Reign bounced back to win the final two games of the three-game series against the Grizzlies. Players and coaches discuss how they turned it around in tomorrow’s editions of The Sun and Daily Bulletin.
No big news out of practice, which included plenty of 3-on-0, 3-on-1 and 3-on-2 breakaway drills. The forward combos resembled those Karl Taylor used in Utah. The Reign will play three games in three nights beginning Friday against Alaska.
Mike Zacharias and Tony Voce haven’t done much for the Ontario Reign lately.
Yet each was instrumental in the Reign’s win at the E-Center, which ended a four-game losing streak for the Reign and set up a rubber match Monday night in West Valley City.
Making his first start since Dec. 26, Zacharias stopped 28 of 31, while Voce scored twice, his first goals since Dec. 27. Jon Francisco added two assists, and Chris Curran, Mike Howe and Greg Hogeboom also scored for the Reign (15-20-3-3).
Curran scored short-handed 1:44 into the game, but Utah (18-17-2-2) answered with goals by all-stars Ryan Kinasewich and A.J. Perry in the second. Down 2-1 at 5:36 of second period, Howe scored his third goal of the season 28 seconds later. Howe had not scored since Dec. 12 and was playing his second game after a nine-day lay off.
But the Reign weren’t done. Voce scored his 10th goal of the season just 36 seconds later to provide a 3-2 lead that the Reign wouldn’t relinquish. Voce scored again at 17:03 of the third, and Hogeboom added a power-play goal in the third period to make it 5-2.
The Reign survived a miserable first period that saw the Utah Grizzlies go up 5-0 after 15:28, and somehow salvaged a point.
Held to one goal in their past two games, the Reign mustered six Wednesday, including the game-tying goal by Greg Hogeboom on a redirected shot with 48 seconds left in regulation. Hogeboom finished with a hat trick — his second of the season — Peter Lenes scored twice, and Tim Kraus added another for the Reign (8-10-1-1).
Mike Zacharias started and allowed three goals on 13 shots before being yanked at the 9:09 mark. Curtis Darling finished the game, stopping 21 of 25. At 3:08 of overtime, Darling was drawn out of position by the Grizzlies’ Tom Maxwell, who then fired the puck past defenseman Mike Egener attempting to cover the net.
Defenseman David Walker finished with three assists for the Reign, who will play the Grizzlies (12-6-0-0) again Friday.