The hurdles were different but the resiliency remained for the Ontario Reign, which overcame an early injury to defenseman Kale Clague and powered past the Tucson Roadrunners by a 3-1 final on Friday evening in Tucson.
It was an incredibly gutsy effort by the five bluelienrs that remained after Clague left the game, with what was deemed a “lower-body injury” by Head Coach Mike Stothers after the game, after he blocked a shot early in the contest. The gritty performance on the blueline, combined with an outstanding performance from Cal Petersen in net, guided the Reign to their fifth win over their last seven games as the team continued its strong run of form.
All that separated Petersen from his first shutout of the season was a nasty bounce in the second period – Brayden Burke’s centering feed took a really tough hop off of the back of Chaz Reddekopp’s skate and kicked past Petersen for Tucson’s only goal of the game. It was an unfortunate development at the time, but inconsequential in the long run and took none of the luster away from Petersen’s performance, as he stopped 46-of-47 in the win.
Tonight is the sixth straight game in which Cal Petersen has gone the distance that he's faced 40+ shots. Has been terrific so far tonight.
— Zach Dooley (@ReignInsider) March 9, 2019
All five blueliners put in a strong shift – Alex Lintuniemi seemed to play every other shift for the entire game. The fourth-year defenseman was a horse on the depleted Reign blueline, playing in all situations throughout the evening.
The Reign tallied three of their own goals, with forwards Sheldon Rempal, Philippe Maillet and Mike Amadio each finding the back of the net, while defenseman Craig Wyszomirski and forward Matt Moulson each tallied a pair of assists. With the second helper, Moulson tied the Reign’s single-season franchise record for points in a season (55), matching that of his brother-in-law Sean Backman from the 2015-16 season.
After a scoreless first period, that saw an Ontario goal disallowed for a kicking motion, the Reign opened the scoring at the 8:10 mark of the second as Sheldon Rempal finished off a nice no-look feed from forward Zack Mitchell for his 14th goal of the season.
The Reign doubled their mark less than two minutes later as forward Philippe Maillet used a spinning move in the right-hand circle to beat Tucson netminder Adin Hill through the five hole along the ice. Amadio would add an insurance tally inside the game’s final three minutes to seal the victory.
The two teams are back in action tomorrow evening for a rematch in Tucson. Puck drop is slated for 6:05 PM Pacific, 7:05 PM local time.
Cal Petersen on the play of the five defensemen in front of him tonight
They were outstanding. They blocked a ton of shots, I think that was the main reason our PK was so good, because guys blocked a ton of shots. It was good for them to get some credit, that’s a good opportunity for them when we go down to five defensemen, guys get to play a lot of situations, so they did an awesome job.
On whether he felt like he was “on” tonight
I mean, I guess I just tried to do the same things I do every night. I was fortunate enough that bounces came my way. Like you said, I felt good, but I was just trying to not do anything special, just stick to my game and it’s one of the nights where it works out.
On his heavy workload as of late
It definitely helps to get a lot of shots. It’s good, it’s fun, it gets you into the game early, you don’t have to sit at the other end just thinking. Sometimes, it’s tough if a lot of those shots are high quality, but you don’t really get to choose what you get. If it’s 40 one night or 20 the next night, I’ll try to do the same stuff every single night.
On the team’s improved play as of late and if things feel like they’re starting to change for the better
Yeah, I hope. Obviously we’re at the bottom of the league and there’s nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, guys are maybe playing with a little less weight on their shoulders and just kind of going out there, because we don’t really have a ton to lose right now. I think this is the part of the season where you see which guys are packing it in and which guys actually want to play this season to the end and play hard. I think, you can tell by tonight, by our last seven games, that the majority, if not all the guys in there want this season to end on a high note and aren’t happy with where we’re at right now. I think this is a good way for us to at least put together some wins and feel good about some effort and work that we’ve put in.
Mike Stothers on Cal Petersen’s play tonight
He was alright. They only had 47 shots, I mean, if it gets up in the 60 range then we’ll talk about how good he is *laughs*. No, he was terrific. He was terrific. He’ll be the first, I bet you he’ll be the first to compliment the D in front of him that blocked a ton of shots for him. That’s got to be at least 10-12 right there and that 47 could have easily been 57 or 60. Our guys did a good job on the PK tonight, getting in front of pucks for Cal and then he just did the job for us, closed the door and he looked good in doing it too, like he was composed, there was no extra movement. He looked like he was dialed in.
On the gutsy effort put in by the five defensemen that finished the game
Oh it’s terrific, and it happened early. We lost Kale, and he did it blocking a shot, so that was a heavy load that we put on, again, a young and inexperienced group. To play the majority of the game with five D, heck of a job by them. I’m extremely proud of all five of them and I’m extremely proud of Kale for blocking the shot too.
On Daniel Brickley’s play in his return to the Reign lineup
Well, he’s had plenty of time to rest up. He might be a little tired tomorrow, maybe he’ll still be running on adrenaline, I don’t know, but that was a lot of minutes and that was not the intent to throw him into that much activity, that quickly, but it’s the nature of the game. He put a lot of time in, he worked hard to get himself healthy and back into shape to play. I guess, if you’re going to get back, might as well get back and really get back.
On Alex Lintuniemi’s play tonight and taking on a larger role down a defenseman
Well, the Bird was the elder statesmen on the backend. He’s got the most experience and he was out there in all situations for us and you’re right, it seemed like every time you looked up, #10 was on the ice for us and we needed that. There were power plays, penalty kills, regular shifts and he was out there for all of them. I haven’t even seen the minutes yet but there wasn’t a defenseman that can complain about their icetime tonight.