Despite producing a tying goal in the final minute of the third period, the Ontario Reign (7-2-0-1) came up short Thursday, falling to the San Jose Barracuda (5-4-0-1) for the first time this season in a shootout by a final score of 4-3.
Ontario goals came from forwards Lias Andersson, Tyler Madden and Taylor Ward, who had the equalizer that forced overtime and also contributed an assist. The Reign managed to control the majority of the shot attempts in the contest, outshooting San Jose by a 35-22 margin that included 15 shots in the second period alone.
More from head coach Marco Sturm and Ward below.
The two teams battled through a scoreless first period that had open looks on both ends of the ice. Each goaltender fended off multiple high-quality chances and extended shifts in their own end, with Ontario’s Pheonix Copley diving to keep the puck out the net and getting help from the post as multiple SJ shots rang off the iron. Strauss Mann was also sharp in the opening frame, denying chances by Quinton Byfield, TJ Tynan and Madden.
Ontario came out firing in the second and dominated play for the majority of the middle frame. Just 38 seconds into the period, Andersson scored his fifth goal of the year with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Mann to give the Reign a 1-0 lead. Andersson has now scored in three straight games and owns a four-game point streak. Assists on the play went to Jacob Moverare and Tynan.
Madden added on and made it a 2-0 advantage for Ontario at 3:02, scoring on a loose rebound in the crease off an initial pass by Ward. A second assist on the play was credited to Akil Thomas, who kept the puck in at the top of the zone.
Before the end of the period, San Jose got its offense going with a goal by Jeffrey Viel, which came on the team’s second shot on net of the middle period with 7:05 remaining in the frame to make it 2-1.
After Ontario successfully killed a brief two-man advantage for the Barracuda at the start of the third, Viel tied the game at 4:59 netting his second of the night by stripping the puck free and using his backhand to beat Copley over the glove to even the contest at 2-2.
Just 1:11 later, Ozzy Wiesblatt scored for San Jose to make it a 3-2 game and give the Barracuda its first lead of the evening.
But the Reign were able to mount a comeback. Ontario’s best chance to tie the game came during a two-minute 5-on-3 opportunity that saw many looks at the SJ net. Mann was up to the task, keeping his team in front.
With just 54 seconds left on the clock, Ward grabbed a rebound in the slot off a shot by Jordan Spence and flipped a backhander up high and into the top of the net to make it a 3-3 game and force overtime.
Byfield had an opportunity to win the game in the opening minute of the extra session, but couldn’t jam a loose puck in the crease home after a shot by Madden was stopped by Mann. Then in the closing minute of overtime, Copley denied Nick Cicek from point blank range and the teams headed to a shootout.
San Jose won the skill session 2-1 in five rounds, with a shot by Luke Johnson serving as the difference maker. Thomas had the lone conversion for Ontario, while a bid to keep the game going by Alan Quine rang off the right post and stayed out of the net.
Mann picked up the win in goal for the Cuda by stopping 32 shots in the contest as well as four shootout attempts. Copley suffered the loss for Ontario, turning aside 18 opportunities. Both clubs came up empty on the power play, each finishing 0-for-4.
Ontario will complete its road trip in Bakersfield on Saturday night against the Condors at Mechanics Bank Arena at 7 p.m. before heading home to Toyota Arena to face the San Diego Gulls on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.
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