Two first period goals got the Ontario Reign (4-2-0) in front early and led to the team’s fourth straight road win, handing a defeat to the Henderson Silver Knights (5-2-0) on Friday morning with a final score of 4-1 at the Dollar Loan Center.
Brandt Clarke was on the ice for all four of Ontario’s tallies and factored into the scoring on three of them, posting a goal and two assists in the Reign victory. Captain TJ Tynan also posted three assists in the win, while Mikhail Maltsev bookended the scoring, netting the opening goal in the first before adding insurance with the final empty-net strike late in the third.
Goaltender David Rittich got the start in between the pipes for Ontario and stopped 28 of the 29 shots he saw to record his third victory of the season. With three consecutive victories with two goals or less allowed, Rittich has lowered his early-season goals-against average to 2.23.
The Reign were the sharper team during the first, securing an early advantage lead on goals by Maltsev and Jacob Doty in the opening 20.
After Ontario had some quality looks that they couldn’t finish in the first few minutes, Maltsev broke through first at 10:26 with his second goal of the season. Jacob Moverare kept the puck in the offensive end on the right point and found Tynan down the wall who quickly centered the puck to Maltsev for a wrister from the right circle that beat Henderson netminder Jiri Patera.
Less than five minutes later, it was Clarke who possessed the puck in the same spot where Moverare helped set up Maltsev’s goal. Clarke elected to shoot the biscuit towards the net, and it glanced off Doty before finding the twine behind Patera. The Reign’s second goal of the morning came at 15:08 and had a second assist credited to forward Taylor Ward.
Clarke continued to have a heavy involvement in the game, scoring the lone goal of the middle period which pushed Ontario’s lead to 3-0 at the second intermission. His tally came on an individual effort which started with a spin move to enter the offensive zone. Clarke followed that up with a toe drag from the right circle toward the slot and then finished with a wrist shot that snuck under Patera’s glove for his second goal of the season.
Henderson’s Alex Swetlikoff became the lone Silver Knights skater to find the back of the net at 10:08 of the third, putting his team back within a two-goal deficit. But the home team was unable to get any closer in the second half of the final period as Ontario continued their defensive proficiency.
Maltsev tacked on Ontario’s first empty-net goal of the 2023-24 campaign at 17:38 of the third, his second tally of the day and team-high third of the season. Clarke and Tynan picked up assists on the final goal of the game, each recording their third point of the contest in the process.
Moverare, Clarke’s defensive partner, was also on the ice for all of Ontario’s four goals and posted his first two points of the season with a pair of assists.
Patera suffered the loss for Henderson, turning out 24 of the shots the Reign put on net. Neither team was successful on the man-advantage Wednesday, with each club going 0-for-2 on the power play. Ontario has now gone three consecutive games without allowing a goal on special teams.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm, Clarke and Moverare are below.
On the way his team played in a game that started in the morning
That was the first time for me, it’s a little different when you wake up at 6:30 and you’re already getting ready for the game. But it’s also fun too. I think it’s good for the crowd and the kids but it’s also good when you’re the winning team. Guys did a solid job today I thought. We controlled the game pretty much all day and we deserved to win.
On his team’s effective start to the game
That sets everything up. That’s how we wanted to start, especially in the first 10 minutes. We didn’t mess around with our puck management and we got it behind the defense, we worked them, and that’s how we get to the game early. The rest, we saw that but it all starts with a good start.
On the play of Brandt Clarke
We’ve always said it, he’s a special kid. The biggest thing for all of us, including him, we want him to be really good defensively. All that other stuff, we don’t worry about because he’s that good and that smart. So we’re going to focus a little bit on that but that was a pretty nice goal today.
On what has been working for the team during the last four games
I don’t think it’s any difference, I just think we’re starting to gel more, we’re starting to know each other’s games more and that always leads to more success. We’ve got a home game next and we’re hoping to carry that momentum into that game.
On playing in the morning for the first time
There were some morning games in the OHL. I never had one but some guys have. It’s definitely different, the 7 a.m. wakeup and everything like that and eating pregame at 7:30, it’s a little different but they had to do it too at the end of the day so it’s just who handles it the best and we were all prepared to go when the puck dropped and that was the difference for us and that’s why we had the two-goal lead after the first.
On the play he made for the goal he scored
Mo [Jacob Moverare] made a good play to move it over to me. I saw the guy was kind of flat-footed so I just tried to do my best to protect it and I guess I had to spin around to kind of protect it and then yeah he was flat footed so once I got around him I had space to take a few more steps and then I saw the d-man sliding so I just tried to again protect the puck, get it to good ice and get a good shot off. I wasn’t really aiming but it went low glove and I was pretty happy.
On playing with Jacob Moverare as his defensive partner
It’s been great. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s so smart. He’s always in the right spot and he bails me out a lot so I’m really grateful for him and we have a really great connection on and off the ice. I’m fortunate to have a partner like that.
Ontario returns home to close out their October schedule with a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Abbotsford Canucks at 3 p.m. inside Toyota Arena.