January 2: Reign game breakdown

Reign game breakdown
It was a loss, but it didn’t completely feel like one, as the Reign made strides and put forth a better effort to start 2016. Ontario fell 4-2 to visiting Charlotte on Saturday night but broke an 0-for-32 power play drought on a second period goal by Nic Dowd in the process. Charlotte (18-11-1-1) went up 2-0 early on goals by Ryan Murphy and Sergey Tolchinsky after one period of play. The Reign (17-7-2-1) got on the board midway through the second as defenseman Jeff Schultz netted his first of the season from the point but a breakaway goal by Justin Shugg against Peter Budaj pushed Charlotte’s lead back to two. Dowd’s PPG made it 3-2 headed into the third, but the Reign couldn’t get anything by Charlotte goalie Rasmus Tirronen in the final period and an empty-netter with just over a minute to go ended their comeback attempt. Kris Newbury was out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury and the Reign brought in Derek Army from the ECHL to take his place just hours before game time.

Best quote
Reign head coach Mike Stothers, being asked about the power play drought: You’re a numbers guy, huh? You an accountant? You can do my taxes, too. Yeah, I don’t put a number on it but it had been a long time. It was good to see. It was good to see it go in the back of the net.

Three stars
–Justin Shugg – The Charlotte winger beat Budaj on a breakaway at the 12:25 mark of the second period, a goal that stood as the game-winner. Shugg took advantage of a mishandled puck by Reign defenseman Zach Leslie at the Checkers’ blue line and was off to the races on Budaj, beating the Reign goalie high for his sixth of the season. Shugg also finished with an assist on Murphy’s power play goal that opened the scoring.
–Derek Army – Welcome to Southern California. The 24-year-old came arrived in Ontario from the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and had Newbury’s big shoes to fill. Army slotted in at Newbury’s usual spot between Valentin Zykov and Sean Backman and provided a spark and didn’t look out of place. His faceoff win helped set up Schultz’s first goal of the year which got the team back in it and was his first AHL point. Army himself nearly scored on a wraparound in the third, a play that had to be reviewed.
–Rasmus Tirronen – The Checkers goalie was peppered early and showed little rust even though he was playing in his first game since Dec. 6. He made 35 saves to Budaj’s 10 (the Reign goalie gave up 3 goals on just 13 shots in his 6th regulation loss) to pick up his fifth win of the season. The Reign made a big push in the third, outshooting Charlotte 12-3, but Tirronen stopped each one and held Ontario scoreless on two power play chances in the final frame.

Turning point
–When center Andrew Crescenzi went down with 1:09 left in the second period after taking a puck to the face off a point shot from Kevin Gravel, the Reign regrouped on Dowd’s goal. Crescenzi left with a towel over his face and the ice was left bloodied where he was hit. The reliable center came back to the Reign bench mid-way through the third period and after the game said he had 11-12 stitches to fix up his upper lip.

Stat fact
–0-for-32 – The Reign’s power play had been moving along at a miserable rate, and that was magnified by an 0-for-3 start on the man advantage in the first 13:30 of play against Charlotte. With that, the Reign were at 0-for their last-32 until Dowd’s wrister from the left circle beat Tirronen low, glove side. Said Stothers afterward: “I was happy for those guys. I was happy for Dowder to score. Maybe it’s a good thing for him and maybe it’s a good thing for our power play and better things are in front of us.”

This and that off-ice
Reign forward Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist for Sweden in a 6-0 quarterfinal win over Slovakia at the World Junior Championships. … Defenseman Kurtis MacDermid served his third game of his 12-game suspension. … Earlier Saturday, it was announced by the AHL that Stothers will coach the Pacific Division in this year’s All-Star Classic in Syracuse, N.Y., on Feb 1.

Next up
The Reign and Checkers will do it all over again in a 3 p.m. game on Sunday at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

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