Associate Sports Editor
The Idaho Steelheads took advantage of a poor finish to the first period on the part of the Ontario Reign and went on to claim a 6-3 victory in front of a crowd of more than 6,000 on Wednesday at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
The Reign gave up three goals, two of which on the power play, in a 2:09 span that set them at a 3-1 deficit after the first period.
“We didn’t play the last three minutes of the period and they have a good power play,” Reign center Aaron Lewadniuk said.
In a game that was not very physical on either side, Ontario found itself with a good outing offensively, putting up 37 shots against Idaho’s 23, highlighted by a quick wrist shot by center C.J. Stretch from the slot that put the Reign ahead, 1-0, 3:37 into the first period.
“I think we had 40 shots which is the most all year,” forward Michael Pelech said. “We proved to ourselves that we can create chances in the offensive zone.”
The Steelheads made the most of their chances, converting three of their four power plays for the evening, including two from Mark Derlago, who went on to record a hat trick and to be voted the No. 1 star of the game for the evening.
“We had two miscommunications. We had three games with them a couple weeks ago and we knew what to expect,” head coach Karl Taylor said. “Derlago is a sniper and we need to do a better job up top denying passing lanes.”
After the first period hiccup, the Reign were at Idaho’s heels but could not finish the comeback, finishing the second period at a 4-2 deficit and a final score of 6-3.
At the 9:06 mark in the second period, right winger Alex Bourret took a quick high-to-low diagonal pass from forward Kyle Kraemer on the tape and put the puck away in a virtually empty net.
That brought the score to within one at 3-2, swinging the momentum in favor of the Reign.
“We need to replicate today’s game and take out those three goals in three minutes at the end of the first,” Pelech said. “I thought we rebounded well and gave ourselves a chance to win tonight.”
“I thought in a lot of the game we played pretty well,” Taylor said. “We needed a couple more saves and to be better on the kill.”
Throughout the rest of the game, neither team controlled the puck in a dominant fashion, allowing the Reign to compete for a win against a team that they are 1-3 against, including overtime and shootout losses.
Ontario, the last place team in the western conference of the ECHL, made only a few mistakes.
But against the third ranked team in Idaho, those chances turned into a painful loss.
“We had a lot of shots and good chances. We needed to put those chances away,” Bourret said. “We got carried away in the penalty box and they’re the No. 1 team in power play.”
“It wasn’t a physical or rough game. We took offensive zone penalties and that’s taking away scoring chances,” Taylor said.
With almost no hope of seeing a playoff berth, the Reign look to build for next year against the Las Vegas Wranglers, the No. 2 team in the western conference, Friday and Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena with both games starting at 7 p.m.
The Saturday game is “Go Green & Teacher Appreciation Jersey Night” for the University of La Verne.
The Reign players will be wearing La Verne themed jerseys.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.