12 skaters from the home side registered a point Sunday afternoon as the Ontario Reign (5-2-0) won their fifth consecutive game, defeating the Abbotsford Canucks (5-2-1) by a final score of 5-3 at Toyota Arena.
Forward Charles Hudon factored in on two of the tallies, posting a goal and an assist in the win, while Jacob Doty scored for the second straight game and goaltender Erik Portillo made 25 saves and improved to 2-0-0.
Defender Cole Krygier got the scoring for Ontario with his first goal of the season during the final minute of the opening period. After taking a feed from forward Taylor Ward, Krygier picked up speed down the left wing into Abbotsford’s zone and beat his man to the net before deking to the backhand and slipping the puck past Abbotsford goaltender Nikita Tolopilo.
The Reign added to their lead midway through the second frame when Francesco Pinelli netted his first professional goal by deflecting a right point shot by Steven Santini through Tolopilo’s pads at 10:12 to make it 2-0. A second assist on the strike was credited to defenseman Kim Nousiainen, the blueliner’s first point of 2023-24.
Abbotsford got back within a goal before the second intermission, however, when Sheldon Dries slipped a backhand shot past Portillo to cut into Ontario’s lead.
The Reign carried their one-goal advantage into the third period, which ended up being a see-saw battle throughout.
Just 1:51 into the final frame, Hudon wristed home his third goal of the year during an early power play to extend the lead to 3-1. The goal came off an initial shot by defenseman Brandt Clarke which was stopped by Tolopilo, but the rebound popped out to Alex Turcotte, who touched it on for Hudon’s shot.
Abbotsford responded quickly to cut the lead back down to a single goal when Jett Woo used a shot to beat Portillo through a screen in front of the net at 3:39.
Doty then netted what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 8:28 when Nikita Pavlychev created a turnover in the offensive zone and then centered the puck in front of the net for a high finish.
The Canucks got back within a goal for the final time when Sheldon Dries scored during a 6-on-4 power play situation at 16:27, which included an extra attacker on the ice with Tolopilo at the bench.
Ontario’s final insurance tally put an end to Abbotsford’s late charge and iced the victory in front of its home fans. Hudon flipped the puck out of his own end towards a charging Martin Chromiak, who picked it up and skated it into an empty net at 18:06.
The Reign held a 31-28 edge in shots on goal in the contest, while both teams finished 1-for-4 on the power play. Tolopilo suffered his first loss of the season for the Canucks despite turning out 26 Ontario shots.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm and Pinelli are below.
On the team’s fifth straight win
We’re in the learning phase and trying to figure it out. We’re trying to find our identity. There are still some hiccups but overall, it was a good game and I’m glad we got the win against probably the hottest team in the league right now. We’ll take that for sure.
On the passing of former Reign forward Adam Johnson
Some of the guys knew him better than others. I had the chance to meet him a couple times at training camp. I kind of left it alone before the game. The game puck after the game was give for Adam. It was emotional. I met him as a good kid who just wanted to play hockey and go fishing in the summer. We’re all thinking about him and his family.
On Erik Portillo’s performance in goal
He was good again. He made some good saves. He’s still a kid too, so he’s not different than any young player. He has to learn the game and be under pressure a little bit, like when you get scored on and now things are tight, or when the other team is going to push a little bit. You can use those things as part of the learning process. You’ve got to love his work ethic. He competes and that’s what we want.
On the Doty-Helenius-Pavlychev line
We called it the “Big Boys’ Line.” They did a great job today. They took care of the puck and used their size in the offensive zone and got rewarded with a nice goal. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to put them out there with a minute left in the game. They deserved everything today. I know it was an emotional day for Doty as well because he knew Adam, probably the best, so I’m glad he got the goal.
On the team’s five game win streak
I think we’ve been playing really well over the past few games. Everyone has been contributing. We’re playing well as a team and just following what Sturmy has to say and its been successful.
On scoring his first pro goal
Santini just shot a puck to the net and I redirected it, and when it went it, in felt good for sure. I didn’t know when it was going to come but I just stuck to my game and got it tonight. It was a very good feeling for sure. I’ll probably keep [the puck] in my room and put it somewhere.
On what he’s learned about himself so far this season
I think my compete level and my will to win puck battles. Obviously its only been a few games, but I’m getting more comfortable, my hockey IQ is improving, and I’m getting used to the pace of the game. I’m just going to keep building after every game. Guys are smarter and stronger here, those areas are improved [from juniors], so I’ve got to improve on those myself as well.
Ontario hits the road next week for a two-game series in Colorado against the Eagles at Blue Arena beginning Friday at 6:05 p.m. PT