The Ontario Reign (2-2-0) made goaltender Erik Portillo’s first professional start a winning one, defeating the Bakersfield Condors (1-1-0) Saturday by a final score of 3-2 to spoil their opponent’s home opener for a second consecutive night. Tyler Madden led the way on the offensive end for Ontario, scoring his first two goals of the season in the second period.
Portillo turned aside 15 shots in the contest, while Charles Hudon added a goal early on in the third that ended up as the game-winner. After dropping their first two games of the season last weekend, Ontario is now back to .500 on the year.
For the second straight night, the Reign and their opponent were both unable to score in the first 20 minutes. Ontario had a lopsided shot-on-goal advantage, however, putting 11 chances at Bakersfield’s net as opposed to just three for the Condors at Portillo.
Madden put the Reign in front not once, but two times during the second, giving Ontario an edge in the middle frame and a lead at the second intermission. The first goal of the night for Madden came off a pass by Samuel Helenius at 2:50, which found Madden in a shooting position near the faceoff dot in the left circle. With a quick release, Madden put the puck low and it got past Condors’ goaltender Calvin Pickard and into the net to make it 1-0. It was the first points of the season for all three players who got on the scoresheet in Madden, Helenius and defenseman Cole Krygier.
Bakersfield evened the game at 1-1 later in the second at 12:52 on a shot by Greg McKegg, who deked to his right in the slot and outwaited Portillo for his first goal of the season.
But Madden struck again 37 seconds later to regain the lead for the Reign. After taking a pass by Mikhail Maltsev, Madden saw the puck deflect off his skate and toward the net, but realizing that if it went past the goal line it wouldn’t count, he alertly touched it again with his stick before it crossed the line.
With the second assist on the goal, Ontario captain TJ Tynan earned his first helper of the year and his 181st career Reign point, which is the most in the team’s AHL history.
Hudon added on at 1:29 of the third, taking a stretch pass from Alex Turcotte and racing into the Bakersfield end, splitting the team’s defensive pair before beating Pickard with a low wrist shot for his second goal of the season to make it 3-1. A second assist on the tally went to blueliner Kevin Connauton, his first point since joining the Reign.
The Condors cut the score back to a one-goal game in the final minute of the contest when Xavier Bourgault put home a loose rebound at the side of Ontario’s net with 21 seconds remaining in the game. The Reign were able to run out the clock, however, and headed back to Southern California with two more points in the standings.
Both clubs were unable to convert on special teams, each finishing 0-for-2 on the power play in the game. Pickard kept out 29 shots in a losing effort for Bakersfield.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm, Portillo and Madden are below.
On if this was the best game the team has played this season
That was definitely more us again. I know preseason is preseason, but we looked pretty good in preseason and I think today was definitely one of those games. It’s, it’s more Reign game. That’s how we want to play and you know, we were very good and very streaky and there’s still some areas in our game we have to fix but overall, it’s good and also goaltending. Look at the last two wins. Our goaltending was outstanding.
On how important Madden’s second goal was
That was huge. And I even mentioned it in between periods. That shows lots of character in this room and you know, they went out during the next shift and try to stick with our game plan and they got rewarded. So hats off to them.
On Erik Portillo’s performance in his debut
He was great. We all were, not nervous, but we all couldn’t wait to see him kind of thing. And we only saw him once or twice and it was preseason, so, you know, regular season game now it’s a different feel, different pressure, but he was great. The guys were all fired up today about his performance, and I’m very happy for him.
On how he felt in his first regular season AHL appearance
I felt great. I mean, the team did such a good job in front of me so I’m so comfortable in them doing their job so it makes it easier to do mine.
On how quickly he was able to settle into the game
I think I was there from the start. Honestly, I think those preseason games really helped with getting into the tempo and getting into the feel of the game, so yeah, I mean, I felt pretty comfortable out there thanks to the preseason games.
On how his team played in front of him, keeping shots to a minimum
No, I mean, it shows that my teammates are working hard in front of me and they did such a fantastic job today of helping me out in my first game. I’m really thankful for that and super happy that I was able to come up with a couple of saves when we needed it as well. It’s a great team effort.
Ontario returns to the ice on Wednesday night in Palm Desert for a contest at Acrisure Arena against the Coachella Valley Firebirds at 7 p.m.