Reign R2, G3 FINAL – Reign 4, Canucks 3 – Sturm, Hudon, Hicketts

The Ontario Reign (5-0) scored three times in a span of 1:21 to flip Game 3 on its head in the second period and held on to defeat the Abbotsford Canucks (2-4) at the Abbotsford Centre to earn a sweep of their second round series, advancing to the 2024 Pacific Division Finals.

Goal scorers in the series-clinching win included Samuel Fagemo, Charles Hudon, Taylor Ward and Andre Lee, while Erik Portillo earned his fifth straight victory of the postseason with 25 stops.


Aatu Raty put the Canucks in front for the first time in the series at 8:14 of the opening period, converting off a feed in front after a turnover created by Abbotsford’s forecheck to make it 1-0.

Five minutes later, former Reign defender Christian Wolanin put the home team up 2-0 by scoring during a 4-on-4 situation with a backhand shot from the front of the net.

Ontario got off to a slow start in the second, coming up short on two consecutive power play opportunities to begin the frame before turning up the heat on the Canucks midway through the frame.

Fagemo put the Reign on the board and cut their deficit to one goal at 8:59 of the middle period by deflecting a shot from Joe Hicketts past goaltender Zach Sawchenko and just under the crossbar to make it a 2-1 game.

Moments later, Hudon scored his third goal of the playoffs off the rush from Akil Thomas and Tyler Madden at 9:36 to tie the game up at 2-2.

Ward capped off the rapid fire Reign goals at 10:20 with his second of the playoffs, putting a rebound in off a shot by Hicketts at 10:20.

Marc Gatcomb evened the contest back up again at 3-3 with his first goal of the postseason on a 2-on-1 rush at 14:49.

Before the end of the eventful second period, Lee put the Reign back in front by a 4-3 margin with his second goal in as many games in the series and third of the playoffs at 17:31. The goal came on an individual effort, as Lee skated into the offensive end down the left wing and moved behind the net before firing a turnaround shot past Sawchenko from the bottom of the right circle. The strike did have one assist on the play, credited to Ward.

The Reign held off a late charge by the Canucks in the third, keeping Abbotsford to just seven shots on net in the final 20 minutes to preserve the win.

Neither club was able to take advantage on the power play in the game with the Canucks going 0-for-3 while Ontario went 0-for-5 in the contest. Sawchenko denied a total of 19 shots during a third consecutive losing effort in between the pipes for Abbotsford, who outshot the Reign 28-23 in the contest.

Marco Sturm
On coming from behind to win the game and clinch the series
We’ve seen that movie before. I was hoping we’d learn from Bakersfield. They had nothing to lose and we were squeezing early again but the guys found a way. Sometimes that’s a good thing too. You’ve got to win those. It was not like how we wanted to play or the way we played the last two games, but in the third, I think everything went back to normal. Everyone settled down and did their jobs.

On Samuel Fagemo’s second period goal
That was a big one. For me, that was the turning point. Then the guys started to breathe again. Before that, it was a little bit too hectic. That one goal kind of gave us hope again. Sure enough, it got things rolling.

On tonight’s game versus the first two games at home
Game 1 and Game 2 were the best games since I’ve been around the Ontario Reign. I’m very proud of this group. They played really, really hard. We didn’t let them breathe either, and I give my team a lot of credit. Our goalie was excellent too. Ports made some really big saves. We were feeding off him and I’m really proud of the guys.

On seeing younger players grow during the playoffs
For me as a coach, it’s great to see how the kids grow. It’s my second year now and a lot of guys are just getting better. For me and the coaching staff, it’s a really good feeling. It’s got nothing to do with winning or losing. Of course it helps, but to see a guy like Andre Lee, Samuel Helenius, and Taylor Ward taking it to the next level, that’s a win.

On wrapping up the series in three games
It’s probably not about the rest. It’s about the opponent. We’ve always had a hard time here. They’re a sneaky, hard-working team. They don’t give you much and again, we didn’t want to come back here. We wanted to leave tomorrow. We’re very happy about that.

Charles Hudon

Joe Hicketts
On tonight’s series-clinching win
We learned that when we want to play our way, we’re going to be a tough team to get out. When we got to putting pucks in [to the zone] and not screwing around in the neutral zone with it, and playing fast and physical we took over the game. We got pucks and bodies to the paint and we were rewarded with four goals there. If you add the four goals up it probably wasn’t more than 25 feet from the net. I think we learned that we’ve got to go to the net, go to the hard areas and be ready at the start, especially when you’re trying to eliminate teams.

On setting up Samuel Fagemo for a re-direct goal
I saw him on the first one and he tipped it just wide. The second chance came around and it’s nice to see him score, so I figured I’d just throw it on the ice and hopefully he could get a stick on it. It was a good play. Sometimes when you’re in slumps, I guess we’ll call that a slump for him, it takes kind of a greasy one to get out of it. Hopefully he learned that he can score that way and not just off the rush or on the power play. Hopefully that will get him going.

On playing in front of his family in BC, despite a short trip
It was nice. I had a large contingent of people here. On the length [of the trip], it’s better this way. We’ll get our rest and get out. I’m happy to be able to play in front of my family.

On the team not allowing any Abbotsford shots after they pulled the goalie
I think it shows our desperation, our urgency, our commitment to team defense, and our commitment to winning. When guys are willing to block shots and chip pucks out, it makes a difference in the playoffs. We’ve been a stingy group. I think this is the first time we’ve allowed more than a goal in a playoff game, so we’ve just got to keep that going. We’ve got to keep that feeling that we’ve got right now and move into the next series, whenever it starts.

Ontario will face either the Coachella Valley Firebirds or the Calgary Wranglers in a best-off-5 series next week to decide the Pacific Division postseason title.

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