3/13 REIGN FINAL – Reign 1, Gulls 2 – Sturm, Santini

Despite a lopsided shot total in their favor, the Ontario Reign (31-20-3-3) came up short against the San Diego Gulls (21-25-8-0) on the road Wednesday night by a score of 2-1 at Pechanga Arena.

Samuel Fagemo scored his league-leading 35th goal for Ontario in the loss during a contest that saw them outshoot San Diego 42-13. TJ Tynan earned the primary assist on the strike and is also tied for the AHL lead with 44 assists this season.


The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak and a run of points in nine consecutive contests for Ontario that dated back to Feb. 21. Reign goaltender Erik Portillo stopped 11 of 13 shots during a losing effort in which he was bested by San Diego netminder Calle Clang who stopped 41 attempts.

San Diego scored twice in the first period to take a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes despite the Reign holding a 12-6 shots on goal margin. Nikita Nesterenko opened the scoring for the home team at 10:43 by taking a pass from Andrew Agozzino before wristing a quick shot up high under the crossbar and into the net.

Robert Hagg added to the lead for the Gulls at 15:38 of the first with a low shot off an offensive zone faceoff win.

Ontario got back within one 36 seconds into the second stanza when Fagemo scored by backhanding a loose rebound off an initial shot by Tynan into the net. Defenseman Steven Santini earned the second assist on the play, his fourth point in his last two games after scoring two goals and an assist in Calgary on Monday.

Fagemo is now alone as the league’s leading goal scorer despite playing in only 39 games this season. His 52 points are the most on Ontario’s roster and rank fifth-most in the AHL, while his 16 power play goals and eight game-winning tallies are also the most of any skater.

The Reign appeared to have tied the game midway through the second period during their second power play of the contest. After a shot by Nikita Pavlychev was stopped by Clang, the rebound deflected over to Fagemo, who swept it into the net. The goal was disallowed, however, due to a whistle for a hand pass.

Ontario continued their comeback attempt for the remainder of the second period, outshooting San Diego 17-2 during the middle frame but were unable to solve Clang.

The play continued to favor the Reign in the third as they had 13 chances on net compared to just five for the Gulls. Ontario had two man-advantage chances in the final period, including one in the last four minutes which saw them pull Portillo in favor of an extra attacker but were unable to even the game.

While the Reign were 0-for-4 on the power play in the contest, they held San Diego off the board on their only man-advantage opportunity.

Postgame thoughts from Reign head coach Marco Sturm as well as Santini are below.

Marco Sturm


Steven Santini
On the loss despite a good effort from his team
I mean obviously you look at the shots…doesn’t always tell the story but I think for the most part we controlled the game. It’s going happen you run into a hot goalie or you don’t bury your chances it is what it is, just we’ve got a lot of games this week we’ve got to move on and just keep getting better.

On if it’s frustrating to not get any points from the game during a busy schedule
It’s tough. You don’t want it to feel like a wasted effort when you lose and you play well, but like I said, we just got to turn the page. Take away the good things, learn from things we can tighten up and get some rest for Friday.

On the success of his play with defensive partner Kevin Connauton
I think it’s a combination of things. I think we’re playing the right way with and without the puck so we’re not spending as much time in our D zone, we’re getting on the attack more and we’re spending more time in the O zone. I think that’s a big factor. And also, I’d be naive to say that playing with that Tynan, Chromiak, Fagemo line didn’t help too. So it’s a combination of everything. I think as a team right now, we’re just producing more. And when that happens, you get more points, you get more pluses and you get more opportunities.

On his experience helping during a busy stretch in the schedule
Experience breeds confidence, for sure. You don’t get overwhelmed by the travel. Maybe if you’re a first or second year player it can be a little bit more intimidating. But for me, I know how to take care of my body. Whether you’re playing big minutes or not much it’s important just to show up to the rink every night ready to play, ready to play 100%. The three-in-threes are probably a little more daunting, that’s a little different for this division. But yeah, it’s just good experience and has taught me how to recover and just turn the page quickly.

Ontario resumes its schedule at home inside Toyota Arena Friday night for a battle with the Coachella Valley Firebirds at 7 p.m.

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