Reign game breakdown
Goalie Jack Campbell stopped all 36 shots he faced in his Ontario debut and behind his efforts and two power play goals in the second period the Reign defeated the San Diego Gulls 2-0 on the road in their season opener. Newcomer T.J. Hensick and Michael Mersch scored and Sean Backman and Jonny Brodzinski picked up the assists on both goals to each finish with two points.
Campbell, on his first game with Ontario: “It was awesome to be in there. It’s just a great group of guys. We work so hard every day. The coaches push us but the tradition here is to win and being in there tonight was really exciting. I got to see firsthand why they’ve had so much success over the years and it’s just great to get in there and for everybody to get that win tonight.”
–Jack Campbell – Not enough could be said about Campbell’s first performance after being nudged into the starting role as a result of Peter Budaj’s recall by the Kings. Campbell, who won just seven AHL games a season ago with Texas, was in full command, challenging pucks and even taking a Brandon Montour shot to the face that made his mask to fly off. Afterwards he credited goalie coach Dusty Imoo for getting his confidence up and helping him focus on his “foundation.”
–Michael Mersch – I was curious to see how many times this season I would type Michael Mersch doing Michael Mersch things, and the first instance comes early – just 27:51 into the first game of the season. Mersch’s deflection of a Backman shot while being planted where he’s most effective, right in front of the opposition’s goalie, was his first of the many expected of him this season.
–Sean Backman – The veteran right wing has a knack for taking advantage of his role along the point a pseudo-D-man on the power play and his smarts paid off for Ontario on both goals. He set up Hensick for the game’s first goal 2:58 into the second period, making a long pass from the left point to the opposite side to a driving Hensick, who made a perfect redirect past goalie Matt Hackett.
San Diego, which played the previous night, exhausted all resources in the final period, throwing 17 shots on Campbell. While the Reign were guilty of not forcing play the opposite way and instead playing with the lead (something head coach Mike Stothers admitted as well), Campbell provided a steady presence.
–6 – The Reign’s perfect 6-for-6 showing on the penalty kill included stopping the Gulls on two separate two-man advantage opportunities.
Lineups and injuries
Versatile veteran Paul Bissonnette played on the back end, and although his minutes weren’t heavy, Stothers said in postgame interviews that his “presence” was needed in a rivalry game like this one. … Defenseman Paul LaDue (lower-body) did not play but his injury is not considered serious according to Stothers. Erik Cernak was a healthy scratch.
This and that off-ice
Hensick, of all things to be doing after a win, was spotted doing push-ups.
The Reign will have a much-needed week’s worth of practice as a team, much-needed mainly because the full group was finally assembled after the Kings made their final cuts. The Reign will face the Texas Stars in their home opener on Friday in Ontario at 7 p.m. Campbell will be facing his former squad for the first time after he was traded in the offseason for Nick Ebert, a former Reign defenseman who should be in the lineup for Texas.