The Calgary Wranglers (11-1-1) came away with an extra point Friday night after a back-and-forth battle with the Ontario Reign (7-4-1-1) that ended in a shootout with a 5-4 score at Toyota Arena.
In his first game of the season after returning from injury, Andre Lee found the back of the net twice for Ontario. Alex Turcotte also had a multi-point night, scoring a goal and an assist for the Reign in a losing effort.
Ontario took the lead at 10:55 of the opening frame on Akil Thomas’ second goal of the season, which came on a backhand pass from Turcotte in the corner. Thomas quickly wristed the puck to the top right corner of the net for the strike. Defender Brandt Clarke picked up the second assist on the play, extending his current point streak to a season-high five games.
The Wranglers responded three minutes later to even the game up at 1-1 with a power play goal by Rory Kerins, who deflected a look past David Rittich from the slot area at 13:53.
Lee found the back of the net for the first time at 3:42 of the second to put the Reign back in front by a 2-1 score. The forward took a centering feed from Jacob Doty and sent a wrist shot past goaltender Dustin Wolf. Samuel Helenius was credited with the second helper on the goal.
Cole Schwindt knotted things up at 2-2 for Calgary with a goal at 10:32 of the second. The score remained deadlocked into the second intermission before things heated up in the third.
Ontario got back in front 3-2 when Lee deflected a shot by Jacob Moverare seven minutes into the third for his second strike of the night.
But Calgary once again got back in the game right away on a goal by Ben Jones at 8:09, tying the game at 3-3 just over a minute after Lee’s tally.
The Reign were called for back-to-back tripping penalties midway through the third, with Turcotte and Martin Chromiak each spending two minutes in the box. Ontario was successful on both kills and came close to taking the lead back when Turcotte had a breakaway opportunity but his shot missed the net.
Clark Bishop put Ontario’s night in doubt for the first time with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, scoring to give the Wranglers a 4-3 lead.
The Reign forced overtime by coming up with a game-tying goal with 1:17 left on the clock. Mikhail Maltsev made the play to get the puck to an open Turcotte on the back door for a finish into an open net for his third goal of the year.
Ontario had a power play in the extra period after Dryden Hunt was called for tripping, but they were unable to convert and the game headed to a shootout.
Kerins was the only skater to score in the skill session, slipping the puck past Rittich in round one of the shootout. The Reign sent Taylor Ward, Samuel Fagemo and Clarke out for their three opportunities.
Calgary finished 1-for-3 on the power play in the contest, while Ontario was 0-for-4. Wolf turned out 20 of the Reign’s attempts on net to earn the win, while Rittich stopped 16 shots for Ontario.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm and Lee are below.
On tonight’s loss
We had a chance. We know they’re the best team in the league and they find a way to win. That’s what good teams do and they did it again today. I didn’t like our first 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe we had too much respect for them, but overall it was still a good game.
On Andre Lee scoring twice in his return
We thought about putting him back in the lineup. He had a great training camp and unfortunately got hurt. He didn’t practice too many times with the team but it was all worth it. He had a good game. I was really happy for him for ending up with a few big goals. He worked hard. He was not happy with his injury but sometimes there are things that you can’t control, and he worked hard after it. He’s the guy who came up to me today and said ‘coach, I really want to play tonight’. So it was good for him.
On Turcotte’s strong start to the season
Right now, he sticks with his game. I’ve mentioned it before, he’s a very consistent player. I think he just needs to be more comfortable. Right now he’s comfortable and especially with his linemates. You always have to have good chemistry, and you need friendship too. Those three guys are pretty close off the ice too, so those little things help and that line has been out best for the last three or four games.
On facing Calgary again on Sunday
That was a man’s game. That’s why you play hockey. You want to get challenged and you want to beat the best team in the league, so here’s our chance. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out today, but the guys should be proud. We’re going to try some stuff tomorrow and then get ready again for Sunday.
On returning to the lineup after preseason injury
I felt like I’ve been away for a little bit, but I felt like I got into the game pretty quickly. I got a few bumps in and I just went from there.
On scoring twice in his season debut
It was nice. I missed that feeling. Dotes and Sammy [Helenius] are good players that did a really good job. Dotes found me in the middle on that one [goal]. We talked before the game about just getting into the paint and shooting it from the top because those are the weaknesses for the goalie. We tried to do that and luckily I got a stick on it, so it felt really good.
On tonight’s game
It was a good game. We knew that their strength is getting to the paint. I think we’ve got to do a better job with that on Sunday. I think the boys battled. We came back at them there, which was great to see. Overall, it was a good game, but as I said, the paint there has to be better. I’m looking forward to Sunday.
The Reign and Wranglers meet up again on Sunday at Toyota Arena for a game that is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.