Reign R3, G3 FINAL – Reign 2, Firebirds 3 – Sturm, Tynan, Turcotte

The Coachella Valley Firebirds (6-1) erased a two-goal deficit in the second period and got a goal from Kole Lind in the first minute of the third to earn a 3-2 win over the Ontario Reign (5-3) in Game 3 of the Pacific Division Finals at Toyota Arena Sunday night, claiming a sweep of the best-of-5 series and advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

Ontario had the lead in the first period after goals by Alex Turcotte and Tyler Madden but were unable to solve Firebirds goaltender Chris Driedger in the final 40 minutes, who finished with 22 saves in the win for Coachella Valley. Erik Portillo made 20 stops in the crease for the Reign in the loss.


Turcotte opened the scoring at 6:17 of the first with his second goal of the postseason on a wrist shot from the right circle that made it to the top left corner of the goal. Assists on the play were credited to both Kim Nousiainen and Jacob Doty.

Ontario extended its lead, the only multi-goal advantage they were able to obtain in the series, when Madden got a piece of a shot by Brandt Clarke and knocked it past Driedger at 13:02. Reign captain TJ Tynan picked up the second helper on the play, which put his team up 2-0 at the first intermission.

But Coachella Valley got back in the game during the middle frame, scoring twice to tie things up before the third. Lind had the first goal at 5:41, while Jimmy Schuldt netted the equalizer and second of the series at 11:37.

Lind wasn’t done and scored his second of the game 46 seconds into the third to put the Firebirds ahead for good. The attacker was left open in front of the net and put a quick release by Portillo on a feed from Andrew Poturalski to make it 3-2.

Ontario worked to get back in the game for the remainder of the period, but were unable to solve Driedger and the Coachella Valley defense with their seven shots they mustered on goal.

Neither club was able to score on the power play in the game, with the Firebirds finishing 0-for-3 on the man-advantage, while Ontario was 0-for-2. The Reign had their second power play opportunity with 2:11 remaining in the third and pulled goaltender Erik Portillo for an extra attacker, but the final effort didn’t yield a goal.

Hear from head coach Marco Sturm, Tynan and Turcotte below moments after the team’s 2023-24 season came to an end.

Marco Sturm
On what the Reign were lacking in the series
The details. They were all tight games. At the end of the day they were probably just a little better and a little deeper with us. You know what, we were in every game and it could have gone either way. I thought Game 1 hurt because I thought we outplayed them. We were better but they won that game and that hurts in a best-of-five series. In Game 2, we didn’t ever really recover from that. Today could have gone either way because I thought it was an even game.

On mixing up the lines to put Turcotte back at center
We were happy with his game but he ws on the wing, and when he plays center, he’s a motor. He goes up and down and plays the way we actually wanted to play and we kind of missed that too a little bit. We thought we’d put him back in the middle and he had played with those guys before, and today was his best game. I was really pleased. He did everything I was asking for.

On the midseason turning point for this team
We had a very good meeting. It was more like a team building meeting but we also talked about our game. We had just had a tough stretch where we lost like six or seven games in a row. We were not happy and that’s why we did that meeting. After that, the guys just took off. I think it was in January or February, and after that point I thought the guys were unbelievable. We had a lot of guys out. Some guys were with the Kings but it didn’t matter who was in and who was out of the lineup. That train was still going and we played the right way and the way I wanted them to play. That’s why I’m so proud of the guys and how they came along all year long.

TJ Tynan
On tonight’s loss
Obviously you’ve got to give them credit. They’re a good team so we knew they were going to push back. It was obviously a tough game for us, especially at home. We were excited to come back here but ultimately we weren’t good enough that was kind of the story.

On if the team deserved a better result from this series
You’ve got to give their goalie credit. He played awesome in the first game. We didn’t score enough and we kind of didn’t play our game in the second game, but we played well. Obviously we’re in a results business, and we didn’t get it done.

On playing with this group this season
For me personally, I’m just really proud of all the guys. The younger guys all took steps from last year. Obviously, some guys got some time up with the Kings and they did great. For me as an older guy that’s been in this league a lot time, that’s what you want to see. I couldn’t be happier for those guys and they’re all tremendous people. They’re tremendous to be around and that’s what you want to see. As a friend and a teammate, you want to see them go up and do well, and a lot of guys did that. We had a good run at the end of the year and at the start of the playoffs, but obviously it would’ve been nice to keep playing and that didn’t happen. First and foremost, I’m just really proud of everyone in that room. I’m blessed and proud to be a part of it.

On working with Marco Sturm again
I can’t say enough about Marco. He’s helped me personally and the group every day. Obviously when he’s played that long in the NHL, anytime he’s telling you something or you can pick his brain, it’s an opportunity. I’ve been around for a long time, and other guys have been around a long time, and if you’re not listening to him you’re not trying to get better each day. That’s what you’ve got to do. I can’t say enough good things about him as a coach and a person. He’s been awesome. We had a different group last year and this year. Obviously everyone took strides and I was just happy to be a part of it and learn from it as much as I could.

Alex Turcotte
On tonight’s loss
I thought we had a good first period. We had a lot of chances and obviously scored, but I think we could have been better. We gave up a couple goals there, so it doesn’t really matter. We lost. I haven’t really thought about how we played but obviously they scored more than us, and I was out there for a couple of them so it doesn’t feel too good.

On growing as a player this season
I know it’s been my best year as a pro, so that’s obviously the right step. It’s the most games I’ve played too, so I was fairly healthy which I’m happy about. We have a really tight team. That’s all I really cared about there, and it’s not a great feeling going out this way especially because we know we’re better than that. We let a couple games slip too, so it’s just tough how fast it ends.

On working with Marco Sturm this season
He’s been great. He’s been really patient with me with the injuries and stuff, and just helping my game grow to a 200-foot game. He’s been there. He knows what it takes to get to that next level. I have a great relationship with him and I appreciate everything he’s done for me. He did a great job with us this year and that’s why it hurts a little bit, because I think we could have done a lot better for the coaching staff. He’s been awesome.

On what changed for the team in the middle of the season
Everyone bought into their role. We accepted a more grindy game and a more physical game, and teams are intimidated by us. I think that’s what changed.

On the fan support
They were great. The first period was awesome. They provided a lot of energy for us. It’s tough. They’ve been great this playoffs and great this year. We were really good at home. It’s just tough having that support and not getting the job done.

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