3/30 REIGN FINAL – Reign 4, Condors 3 – Sturm, Lee, Pavlychev

Andre Lee scored a goal and an assist in his first game in over two months and the Ontario Reign (36-21-3-4) won their fifth straight game, defeating the Bakersfield Condors (35-25-2-2) by a 4-3 score on Saturday night at Toyota Arena.

With the victory, Ontario finished March with record of 10-2-0-1, their most successful month of the 2023-24 campaign. The Reign are in a tie for second place in the Pacific Division standings along with Tucson, each with 79 points.


Francesco Pinelli got the Reign out to an early lead by knocking in a rebound off an initial shot by Charles Hudon to put Ontario on top 1-0 just 2:24 into the game.

The Condors tied things up at 1-1 on a power play goal by Raphael Lavoie at 15:23 of the first that came off the rush after the Reign were unable to convert on a shorthanded chance at the other end.

Adam Erne put Bakersfield in front for the first time with a shorthanded strike at 15:13 of the second to make it a 2-1 game in favor of the visitors.

But Lee answered back quickly for Ontario, scoring his fourth of the season just 2:02 later to even the game at 2-2. An initial shot from Jacob Doty was stopped before the rebound came to Lee for the finish.

The game remained tied until Nikita Pavlychev netted his fifth of the year at 2:56 of the third to bring the Reign back in front, 3-2. Lee started the play by holding the puck in at the top of the offensive zone with a slap that got knocked down to Pavlychev, who controlled it and put a wrist shot by the blocker of goaltender Olivier Rodrigue.

Bakersfield didn’t go quietly however, scoring a power play goal to make it a 3-3 game off the stick of Seth Griffith at 9:21.

Ontario found the winning tally at 11:04 when Martin Chromiak hit TJ Tynan with a backdoor pass on the power play. Tynan redirected the puck into the goal for his ninth marker of the season, while Hudon also factored in on the play with the second assist.

The Condors went 2-for-3 on the power play in a losing effort, while Ontario ended the game 1-for-5 on the man-advantage. Erik Portillo turned out 32 shots to earn the win in the contest, while Rodrigue suffered the loss with 25 stops.

Postgame thoughts from Sturm, as well as Lee and Pavlychev, are below.

Marco Sturm
On Andre Lee’s return and tonight’s overall effort
It’s no surprise though. He’s been becoming a big part of our team. I know he’s had some tough injury but its like he never missed a beat, so good for him for getting rewarded. It was another great team effort. We had a lot of guys out but we’re finding a way right now. For me, that’s the most important thing.

On his confidence in Andre Lee
I was not worried but I just probably didn’t expect him to be that good. He hardly had any mistakes. I put him out there during six-on-five too because he had a great game. That shows that I have a lot of trust in him. That also shows that he had a great game and that he deserved to be out there on the ice.

On tonight’s game against Bakersfield
It was a little bit more physical, but again we came back to win the game. That’s very important, especially in the third period even if they tied the game. We scored, they came back, and we scored again. And the power play came through too. A lot of good things happened, but overall I just liked our team toughness. We stick together and we fight for each other, that’s why we’re winning right now.

On playing in a very emotional game
I think our team is built for that. We have a lot of toughness and you could tell that other teams don’t like it. When the Reign Train is going, you’ve got to watch out. We also have to control ourselves a little bit better, including me sometimes, getting all fired up about some calls. That’s just the way it is. It gets everyone going and obviously it was a great crowd too today. I think everyone was happy today.

On the team’s 12-game point streak at home and the fans’ support
That’s what happens right? As soon as you start winning, especially at home, people come in and support us. We love that. Every player and every hockey team does, you name it. When there’s a good crowd and good energy, you just automatically feel better, and also I think we play better. That was not just for us but also for our fans who are supporting us. That was a big one.

Andre Lee
On returning to the lineup and scoring an important goal
It felt good. It was an awesome feeling being back with the guys and helping the team out. I missed it a lot. I cant wait for these next few games and then the playoffs to come. It’s obviously fun but I’m trying to focus on doing the right things at first, not only going out there and scoring. That’s how I think before the game. Just go out there and do the right thing, play simple and play hard. Obviously it was fun to get that goal as well.

On his two months away from the team
It’s hard. For me, I had a lot of alone time. I watched a lot of hockey and tried to stay in touch with the boys. I tried to learn from practice and I watched the games a lot. I think that was the biggest key, to stay in touch with the boys and watch the games, just to feel like you’re still in the team.

On a tough game against Bakersfield
They’re a hard-working team. You can see it out there because it was a battle today. The guys chipped in. Ward and Hodgson had two good fights, so we do it for each other. That’s what we’ve got to continue to do here as well.

On staying positive during his injury
I’ve just tried to focus on being happy and keeping my smile when I go to the rink every day. I mean, to go to the rink and see the guys every day just makes me happy. Obviously I don’t want to be hurt, but I’m so glad to be back with the boys.

On the fan support at home
It’s great. It’s something every player loves. Shout out to our fans, today was great. It was packed tonight. It’s an unbelievable feeling and its going to be great in these last few games we have here and then the postseason.

Nikita Pavlychev


Ontario returns to action on Wednesday night in Henderson for a battle with the Silver Knights at The Dollar Loan Center at 7 p.m.

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