Erik Portillo stopped all 19 shots he faced to earn his first professional shutout in a 4-0 win for the Ontario Reign (8-4-1-1) at Toyota Arena Sunday afternoon over the Calgary Wranglers (11-2-1), who entered the game with the AHL’s best record.
Samuel Fagemo scored twice in the third period to seal the victory, while Mikhail Maltsev posted a goal and two assists and Alex Turcotte earned two helpers for Ontario in the win. The victory capped off a five-game homestand for the Reign which saw them go unbeaten in regulation with a 3-0-2 record.
Ontario’s defense made it tough for Calgary in the first period, not allowing a shot on goal from the Wranglers until 7:30 remained in the opening frame. Tyler Madden came closest to scoring in the first when he saw a wrist shot of his clang off the post.
Maltsev opened the scoring for the Reign in at 5:51 of the second when he netted a power play goal off the rush with assists by Turcotte and Martin Chromiak.
Clarke then added to the lead less than three minutes later at 8:45 on a wrist shot from the left circle that made it to the top right corner of the net. Maltsev picked up the lone helper on the strike, which put Ontario ahead 2-0.
The Reign closed out the middle period with three straight penalty kills on minor infractions that all came in the final seven minutes of the frame.
Fagemo pushed Ontario’s lead to 3-0 at 8:35 of the third with a 5-on-3 power play goal from Clarke and Maltsev and then added on an empty net tally with 3:12 left on the clock to seal the win.
The Reign finished 2-for-8 on the man-advantage in the game, with special teams play as a major factor throughout the game. Calgary ended the night 0-for-5 on the power play. Goaltender Dustin Wolf got the start for the Wranglers and turned out 20 shots in a losing effort.
Postgame thoughts from head coach Marco Sturm and Clarke are below.
On tonight’s bounce-back win over Calgary
It was probably the best, most complete 60 minutes we’ve played in a long time, at least since I’ve been here. Forget about the score, it’s just about the way we played from the first shift to the last shift. We stuck up for each other. System-wise we played exactly how we wanted. We played very smart and we also had a good goalie tonight. We thought the reason we didn’t win last game was that the special teams didn’t come through, and today they did. Everything game together today and it was a great win.
On the power play finding ways to break through
Things are not always going to go well. The guys, especially that top unit, were getting really frustrated and not just tonight, but that last few games too. All of a sudden you get a five-on-three and those are big, big moments. Then we came through, and it changed very quickly. That’s why its so important. You have to stick with it.
On taking 8 points from the five-game homestand
We want to be a good home team. Those are important points. Every point is important, but especially at home. I thought we’d been just so-so at home but now we just picked it up a little bit. There are tough stretches coming up and that’s why we want to grab as many wins as we can.
On Erik Portillo’s first shutout
He was really good. He competes and he made some key saves. We had to kill a few power play, and shoutout to my guys, because the PK units did a really good job. Ports was strong too. Overall we were really good and we were in front of him a lot, blocked a lot of shots, and when Ports had to make a save, he did.
On visiting Coachella Valley on Tuesday
Coachella is always a challenge and always fun. It doesn’t matter if they come here or if we go into their building. They have an outstanding building with good fans and its fun to play. It’s also fun to steal a few points and be done. In the past, we’ve done a really good job and we’re going to try to do that again.
On the weekend series against Calgary
It was definitely a good test for us. The first game, we thought we were right there in the battle. We went to a shootout and they pulled it out. We learned a lot from that game and learned that we’re going to have to lock it down. They capitalize on their chances, so you’ve got to minimize as many chances and shots that we can and that’s what we did today. Marco said it after the game, that was our best 60 minutes all year, so its definitely a badge of honor for us and we’re try to carry that onto our games coming up this week.
On his current six-game point streak
I’m just using my teammates. Line communication and getting shots to the net is key. When there’s a lot of traffic I’m just trying to start some chaos in front of the net. Also, I just curl up and look for guys off the rush and its been clicking right now. It’s good to see the puck go in the net and I’m happy to be contributing.
On his goal
The coaches were saying that their forwards press hard and they’re in your face, so if you can get around the first one they kind of start running around. I saw space down the wall and I kind of went for it and nobody really knew who to take me, so I just saw some space and wanted to pick my spot on the side and I hit it. I was pretty happy that it went in.
On Erik Portillo’s shutout
We were super happy for him. Everyone was ecstatic on the bench when that buzzer hit. We’ve kind of just saying “let’s play for Ports here.” Even after we got our empty net goal there was still something to play for. He’ll remember his first professional shutout for a really long time, so we’re happy we can help him out. He played phenomenal and absolutely deserved it, so it was great to see.