A third period rally wasn’t enough Wednesday night as the Ontario Reign (15-12-0-1) fell short to the Bakersfield Condors (12-17-1-0) by a final score of 3-2 at Mechanics Bank Arena in a game that was postponed from its original date of Dec. 16.
Austin Wagner and Taylor Ward found the net for Ontario in the third as the Reign put 21 shots on goal in the final 20 minutes to eclipse their season-high for both a single period and a game with 48 total shots on net.
More from head coach Marco Sturm and Wagner below.
The Condors were led by their goaltender Calvin Pickard, who earned the win with 46 saves in his first appearance since Nov. 15. Matt Villalta suffered the loss for Ontario at the other end of the ice, making 29 saves in the Reign’s crease.
Bakersfield took the initial lead on an unassisted goal by Noah Philp at 14:07 of the first period and were able to take their early advantage into the locker room with them at the first intermission while holding a 13-10 advantage in shots on goal during the opening 20 minutes.
Raphael Lavoie added on in the second period, scoring twice in a span of 5:05 to extend the Condors’ lead to 3-0. Both goals came with first assists by Justin Bailey, who drove to the net on each play.
Ontario started to turn the momentum toward the other end of the ice not long after Lavoie’s second goal when Bakersfield’s Ty Tullio was whistled for slashing at 11:58 of the second period. On the ensuing power play the Reign had numerous scoring chances, including two shots that went off the post.
Immediately after Tullio’s infraction ended, another slashing call was given to Max Gildon and again Ontario went to work on the man-advantage but couldn’t get any closer on the scoreboard. The Reign piled up 17 shots in the middle frame, but were unable to solve Pickard until the third.
Wagner broke through at 3:32 of the final stanza, deflecting a shot by Jacob Moverare from the left point into the top right corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season. Captain TJ Tynan also factored into the scoring with the second assist on the play for his team-leading 26th helper this season.
Ontario kept the pressure on throughout the third but didn’t put another puck past Pickard until the game was in its late moments when Taylor Ward banged in a rebound at 18:13 with an extra attacker on the ice. The rebound came off an initial shot by Jordan Spence, who was credited with his 20th assist of the 2022-23 year.
In the end it was too little, too late for the Reign, who produced a 21-7 shots on goal advantage in their comeback attempt during the third.
Neither club was successful on special teams in the game, with Bakersfield going 0-for-3 and Ontario ending at 0-for-5.
On what woke the team up and changed things in the second period
That’s a good question. I don’t know why we didn’t have everyone going right from the start. We knew the importance of the game tonight and we wanted to come out strong and for the first 40 minutes we only had a handful guys going and that’s just not good enough. It doesn’t matter which game you’re in, which league you’re in, it doesn’t matter. We shuffled some lines around in the third and paid off a little bit and it was too late. Yeah, we were better in the third but again, if you sleep through the game, the first 40 minutes, then you obviously didn’t deserve to win.
On creating a new line with Wagner and Tynan
I wanted to give Tynan a little bit more speed and Wagner had a good game today. Right from the start he was one of them who was actually skating well, not just today in the last few games too so I think he deserved to be up there and I think we played one game in Tucson, they played well together too with Ward and so we tried that and it was good, but unfortunately it was too late.
On his relationship and familiarity with Wagner
I know him for a long time and I know exactly when he’s not going, but he’s been around and I think he’s one of those guys when you push him a little bit harder then I think he usually responds in a positive way. But he had to learn too and again, lately it’s been more like him. He has some up and downs too, but I liked his game, especially in the last few games.
On what his team did well on the power play even though they didn’t score
We were shooting pucks. I think that was really the positive today. They were willing to shoot pucks and we got it back and yes, we hit a post couple times so we had some good looks and opportunities, we just couldn’t finish. But the shooting mentality, at least that was there and we spent most of the time in the o-zone in their end and now we’ve just got to find a way to score and also to screen the goalie. It’s still something we have to get better at.
Ontario returns home on Friday for a battle with the San Jose Barracuda that is set to get underway at 7 p.m. inside Toyota Arena.