REIGN FINAL – Reign 2, Firebirds 3 – Sturm, Bisson

The Coachella Valley Firebirds (48-15-5-2) scored three times in the first period and held off a late rally by the Ontario Reign (34-30-5-1) to secure a 3-2 win in the final game of the inaugural season series between the Southern California rivals on Wednesday night at Acrisure Arena.

Ontario’s goals in the contest came from Samuel Fagemo and Tobie Bisson, while captain TJ Tynan assisted on each strike to increase his league-leading total to 71 helpers on the season.


The loss for the Reign, combined with a win for the Bakersfield Condors over the Henderson Silver Knights, have Ontario and Bakersfield deadlocked for fifth place in the Pacific Division standings with two games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season.

Coachella Valley finished with five wins in the eight meetings with the Reign this year. Ontario’s record against the Firebirds was 3-4-1.

The Firebirds controlled most of the play during the first period and broke through for the first goal of the night at 13:04 of the opening frame on a shot by Luke Henman from the inside of the right circle that snuck inside the right post to make it 1-0.

Cameron Hughes added to the Coachella Valley lead less than a minute later at 13:59 and Ville Petman followed up with a goal of his own shortly after at 15:49 to make it 3-0, part of a run of three goals on three consecutive shots for the Firebirds in less than two minutes of game time.

After going into the first intermission down by three, Ontario began their comeback early in the middle frame when Fagemo scored on the power play at 2:47. The attacker netted his 23rd tally of the season by blasting a one-timer past goaltender Chris Driedger off a pass by Jordan Spence. Tynan recorded the second assist on the play, moving the puck up to the middle of the point for Spence to pivot it to Fagemo on the left circle.

The Reign finished with a 10-6 shots on goal edge in the second but were unable to get any closer on the scoreboard before the final intermission.

Bisson made it a one-goal game at 7:53 of the third during a delayed penalty, joining the rush with an extra attacker on the ice before rifling the puck past Driedger to cut Coachella’s lead to 3-2. Bisson’s fourth goal of the 2022-23 campaign came off a pass by Tynan and also had a second assist credited to Lias Andersson.

But Ontario was not able to find an equalizer before time ran out in the third, hampered by a late high-sticking penalty to Jacob Moverare.

Driedger earned his second win of the season against the Reign with 19 saves for Coachella Valley, while Cal Petersen got the start for Ontario and stopped 30 shots in a losing effort. The Reign converted for the only power play goal of the night, finishing 1-for-2 on the man-advantage while holding the Firebirds off the board on two man-advantage opportunities.

Marco Sturm
On the team’s slow start, which led to a loss

That’s what you get if you’re not ready to go and probably afraid too a little bit to play big man’s hockey, you’re going to get down very easily very fast. Give the guys credit we came back a little bit but again, it’s not our standard and I think we have enough good players in this locker room who can control situations like that and it was top to bottom, it was just not a good start.

On what changed things around in the second period
We just wanted to come out strong. We want to create some opportunities, some shorter shifts, some intensity, some energy and we are a good hockey team if we do that. Just not everyone is I think, believing in that and maybe they just don’t know and have to learn. That’s the frustrating part because we have guys who understand that and are willing to do that and then we also have guys that are not and maybe they’re not ready yet, I don’t know. We still have to figure it out. But this is playoff hockey and we need everyone and if you can’t make a play then you’ve got to do something else, either on the ice or off the ice, but you’ve got to bring something and that’s something we have to touch on for sure the next few days.

On Nate Thompson’s play, returning to the lineup
Yeah, he was better than I thought, you know, for an old guy like him. He was good. I think he ended up 80% in the faceoff, he was never really in trouble and he gives us good PK minutes. It’s just nice to have a veteran like him in the lineup. He calms everything down and I think he was one of the players who actually was pretty good.

Tobie Bisson

The Reign begin a home-and-home series to close their regular season schedule at home against the Henderson Silver Knights on Friday night at Toyota Arena at 7 p.m.

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