The Colorado Eagles defeated the Ontario Reign on Friday night by a final score of 6-4, winning Game 2 of the teams’ best-of-3 Pacific Division First Round series at the Budweiser Events Center to advance to the Pacific Division Semifinal Round.
Lias Andersson scored twice for Ontario in the contest while adding an assist, netting the Reign’s first and fourth goals of the night. Aidan Dudas and Nate Thompson also found the back of the net in the third period in a losing effort. Ontario’s 2022-23 season comes to an end after a 34-32-5-1 record in the regular season and two postseason losses to Colorado.
More from Reign head coach Marco Sturm, Aidan Dudas and Nate Thompson below –
The goaltending matchup was the same for the second straight contest, with Justus Annunen earning the win for Colorado by stopping 30 shots while Cal Petersen suffered the loss after making 20 saves.
The Reign got in front first just as they did in Game 1 of the series, scoring just 2:20 into the first period when Nate Schnarr sent a feed from behind the net to Andersson who one-timed the puck into the top right corner of the net to make it a 1-0 game.
But Colorado responded quickly less than two minutes later at 4:16 when Kale Kessy was able to dig a puck out from underneath Cal Petersen before a whistle was blown and shove it into the net to even the score at 1-1.
The Eagles took control of the game in the second period, scoring twice to put themselves in front by a 3-1 score. Oskar Olausson got Colorado ahead for the first time at 11:04 of the middle frame, before Ryan Wagner found the back of the net at 16:03.
Ontario came out with desperation in the third period, outshooting the Eagles 14-7, but were unable to get any closer until the final minutes. A total of six goals were scored in the final frame, three by each team.
Charles Hudon extended Colorado’s lead to 4-1 with a power play goal on the first man-advantage of the game for either side at 7:24.
Dudas responded less than two minutes later, netting a shorthanded strike to cut the Ontario deficit to 4-2 at 9:09 with an assist by Thompson.
But less than a minute after that, Cedric Paré scored for Colorado before the Eagles’ second man-advantage of the game ended to make the score 5-2 at 10:01.
It remained a three-goal lead for the Eagles until the final two minutes of the game when the Reign pulled Petersen for an extra attacker and Thompson put home a rebound from the top of the crease to cut the lead to 5-3. Thompson’s second goal of the series had assists by both Andersson and Jordan Spence.
Then just 28 seconds after Thompson’s tally, Andersson put the puck into Colorado’s goal for his second strike of the night, banking it off of Annunen and in on a feed by Alex Turcotte to make it a one-goal game again at 5-4 with 1:26 remaining on the clock.
The Reign called timeout before play resumed, but were unable to find an equalizer in the final minute, eventually surrendering an empty-net goal to Paré with seven seconds left in the game.
Colorado finished the contest 2-for-2 on the power play, converting on all three man-advantages they had in the series. The Reign on the other hand were 0-for-1 on their power play. Ontario had a 34-26 edge in shots on goal during the contest.
On tonight’s game and the series
We probably weren’t as sharp [as last game] but it was there. There were a couple unlucky bounces, which got us a little off track. We can’t change it now, but at the end of the day, we lost two games. They were probably just a little bit better and they scored on their opportunities. We didn’t. I’m proud of our guys and how they came out the last two games. We didn’t really play good hockey down the stretch, especially at home, so that was kind of disappointing. But the way we prepared for these two games, and the way that they showed up every day, that gives me hope. We’ve got to build on that.
On Colorado’s first goal
The [referees] didn’t explain it to me at all. I was mad at them because they did not want to explain it to me. There should have been an icing before [the goal too]. They didn’t call icing four or five times. They didn’t call penalties all game, and that’s okay, because its playoff hockey. Then they called a bad one on Spence. Some things just didn’t fit.
On Cal Petersen’s impact this season
Cal has been great. Yes, he wanted to be a difference in the playoffs, and we all know that. He was trying and he didn’t get the lucky bounces he wanted, but overall we were very lucky to have him. Goaltending was never our issue. He’s a pro. He’s an NHL goalie. I hope he’s going to be back in the NHL next year, but he means a lot to our room. He took the guys out a lot. He took care of them. He’s a professional. He was a total pro, so I really appreciate everything he did for us, and for us coaches too. He woke up every day and I know it’s not always easy for him, but he was definitely a good man all season long.
On the team quickly improving its play in the postseason
There’s a few ways you can look at it. I think one way is to look in the mirror and ask why it happened. Why did we not play well down the stretch? The guys can play that way. That’s on us, but most importantly, it’s an individual thing too. How you prepare and how you contribute to the team every night was just not there. You can see it here now. As soon as they do it, all of a sudden, we’re a totally different hockey team. That’s what a lot of guys don’t get yet. A lot of guys have to learn that to be a part of a group. It doesn’t matter what you do or what you bring, you just have to bring something. For us, having a young group like this, you’ve got to play together. We need everyone. So there’s some good and bad in the answer, but that’s something we have to get better at next season.
On tonight’s game
We gave it our all. Unfortunately, there were a couple bad bounces that ended up in our net. I thought we played hard. We did what we could and you know, in the end, I think we deserve better. You can’t dwell on that, but it’s a tough way to go. I’m proud of the guys.
On his short-handed goal in the third period
It was a nice little give-and-go with Thompson there are our blue line. I kind of just wanted to shoot through the D and get it on net, and it went in for me. It was a big goal for us. We came close. We had that comeback, but it’s just the way it is.
On Alex Turcotte’s work ethic
I’ve been saying this for a while. I think Turc is too good for this league. He’s one of those guys that just does not stop working, and I love to see that. Those are my favorite type of players. I try to tell Turc every day ‘dude, you have what it takes.’ I just want the best for him because he works as hard as he works. He’s a great player and if he can stay healthy, he’s going to have a great career.
On tonight’s game and the team’s effort
It’s tough but I think the guys came to work tonight. You saw, we didn’t want it to end, and nobody quit. We made it a game late. Anything could’ve happened, but it’s the playoffs. I think maybe their special teams was better than ours, but I thought our guys responded. I honestly thought last game and today’s game were probably our better games we’ve played in a long time. It’s great to see. We have a young group and guys are learning, maturing, and hopefully this is a little bit of a learning lesson for the guys that are coming back next year. We know how hard it is. Every single guy is important. There’s a great group of kids in there and it was a lot of fun for me.
On this season with the team
It was fun. I was glad I got to get healthy and get a couple of games in the playoffs. Obviously, I would have liked to play more games this year. I think it was just one of those seasons where you sometimes get bad luck with injuries. I try to thank the training staff and everyone else who has been great with me and helped me get back. Like I said, it’s been fun. I told all the guys after, I don’t know if this is it for me or not, I’m not sure, but if it is it was a ton of fun. It was a weird start for me this season, not knowing what was going to happen with me. That kind of brough a little love and fun for hockey for me this season. I had a blast.