David Rittich stopped all 41 shots that were sent his way on Wednesday to give the Ontario Reign (3-2-0) a third consecutive road win in the past six days by a 1-0 score over the Coachella Valley Firebirds (1-2-0) at Acrisure Arena.
The deciding goal in the first meeting of eight this season between the two I-10 rivals came from Reign defenseman Kevin Connauton, who blasted a slapshot past Firebirds’ goaltender Chris Driedger during 4-on-4 play late in the second period. Ontario was perfect on the penalty kill for the second outing in a row, discarding all four of Coachella Valley’s man-advantage chances.
Connauton’s strike came at 17:19 of the second period came with an assist from Martin Chromiak and broke the ice after neither team was able to capitalize in the first, which saw the Firebirds outshoot Ontario 10-7.
The Reign mustered up 11 shots in the second, which included Connauton’s tally, but surrendered 13 looks at their net.
Rittich was at his best in the third, turning out 18 opportunities off Coachella Valley sticks. The netminder evened his season record at 2-2-0 and lowered his goals-against average and save percentage to 2.55 and 0.923, respectively.
Driedger was also excellent at the other end of the ice, stopping 24 of Ontario’s attempts in a losing effort for the Firebirds.
The Reign killed the lone infraction of the third period which went to Charles Hudon, who was called for charging at 16:44, and stayed in front on the scoreboard by defending their zone in the final minutes.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm, Rittich and Connauton are below.
On the way his team played in a tight, defensive game
Yeah we know they were going to push hard but I don’t know I had a good feeling and the guys were, all of them, they were ready to go today. They were involved right away right from the first minute and I thought they deserved that win. Everyone was fighting really hard and our goaltending was pretty outstanding today. That’s what you need in a 1-0 game and I’m proud of the guys today.
On the play of Rittich in the victory
Having a guy like him, makes the big saves and calms everything down too so you know he’s very competitive and you know, he said it this morning. I’ll be ready and I’m going to stop every puck he said. And then he came through. Guys like him. He looked very big in net and they’re a very good team and it could’ve gone either way but we tried to limit their o-zone time and the slot where they’ve been very dangerous and we did a pretty good job.
On Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who played after joining the team earlier in the day
He’s a very professional hockey player and it doesn’t matter where he plays, in which league, for which team, he will give you everything and we definitely appreciate his effort today and we were very excited to have him at least for one game. But it’s not easy for him too, not playing regularly with the Kings and I thought he didn’t miss a beat. So I was very happy for him and he was a big part of our big win today.
On the penalty killing success his team had in the game
We changed our kill in our organization and took us a little bit longer. It was not good the first couple games but since then, we worked on it in practice and every day, every game, I feel like guys get more comfortable. So do us coaches. I felt really good. And again, having guys like JAD, and you know, lots of good killers with Maltsev and [Turcotte] and [Akil Thomas] we have guys now who can kill and they’re really good at it. So that’s why I didn’t sweat at all because I knew we were going to kill them.
Ontario completes its first road trip of the season Friday morning in Henderson when the Reign battle the Silver Knights at a special start time of 11 a.m. inside the Dollar Loan Center.