ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL Los Angeles Kings and AHL Manchester Monarchs, was defeated by the Alaska Aces, 6-3, Sunday evening in front of 5,148 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The match got physical from the first puck drop. Left wing Chris Curran threw a check on Aces defenseman B.J. Crum as he was streaking around the net, and sent Crum flying into the boards. Aces defenseman Nick Tuzzolino took exception to the legal hit, and dropped the gloves with Curran. Both players landed some haymakers and continued throwing punches even after falling to the ice. The referees eventually broke it up, and doled out a 5-minute fighting major and 2-minute instigating minor to Tuzzolino and a 5-minute fighting major to Curran.
Alaska opened up scoring in the match just seconds after killing off Tuzzolino’s instigating minor. On a breakaway, right wing Matt Stefanishion fed the puck ahead to left wing Lance Galbraith, who threw the puck past Ontario goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, high on his stick side. The Aces took a 1-0 lead.
The Reign countered with a goal of their own at 15:29. An Alaska player tried to clear the zone, but his attempt was grabbed by right wing Bud Holloway, who tipped the puck to right wing Jon Rheault. Rheault shot the puck from between the face-off circles in front of the net, and his bid went top-shelf and sent the goalie’s water flying back towards the glass. The teams headed into the second period tied at one.
Todd Jackson headed to the locker room at 5:02 in the second after a slash from Alaska defenseman Ryan Turek. At 7:01, during an Aces shorthanded shift, Matt Stefanishion fired the puck into the left side of the net before Zatkoff could slide in front of the shot. Alaska’s 2-1 lead didn’t last long, because less than three minutes later, right wing Brad Mehalko passed the puck to defenseman Dan Knapp from behind the net. Knapp fed the puck to forward Dale Reinhardt in front of the net, and Reinhardt launched the puck into the empty side of the goal before Alaska netminder Jean-Philippe Lamoureux could get back into position.
At 15:43, the gloves hit the ice again after Jon Rheault sent an Alaska player into the boards. Two separate fights erupted, the first of which was between Reign defenseman Andrew Martens and Aces left wing Scott Burt by the boards. The fists flew and shots were landed before the players fell to the ice and headed to the box. Immediately following, Reign defenseman David Walker and Aces forward Erik Fabian squared off. The Alaska forward landed a few blows, but Walker connected with some left jabs of his own before both players went down. The referees handed out six penalties after the brawls: Burt, Fabian, Walker, and Martens received 5-minute fighting majors, while Jon Rheault received a 5-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for his hit, giving the Aces a power play.
Forward Luke Erickson received a pass from Matt Shasby just in front of the blue line. Erickson fired off a slapshot that flew past Zatkoff and gave the Aces a 3-2 lead. Right wing Brett Hemingway also registered an assist on the goal. After a turbulent second period, the Reign headed into the third looking to battle back and catch the Aces.
Alaska was still on a power play to start out the third period, and right wing Cam Keith capitalized on the man advantage. Keith grabbed a rebound and sent the puck flying over Zatkoff, who was still on the ice after going down to make a save. The Aces extended their lead, 4-2.
Right wing Bud Holloway streaked towards the Alaska net on a breakaway, but was hooked by B.J. Crum and awarded a penalty shot at 1:52. Lamoureux made the save and held the Aces lead. Less than two minutes later, during a penalty kill for Jeff Zatkoff’s delay of game minor, center Tim Kraus cut Alaska’s lead to one with his unassisted, top-shelf goal that made the score 4-3.
Alaska came back with two unanswered goals to close out the match. The first came at 9:57 from center Alexandre Imbeault, who floated the puck into the back left corner of the net. Brett Hemingway and defenseman Bryan Miller registered the assists. The second goal came at 15:42, when Cam Keith picked up his second goal of the night, after sliding the puck around Zatkoff off a breakaway. Ontario was unable to catch Alaska, and the Aces picked up the win with a final score of Aces 6, Reign 3.
1. AK – C. Keith
2. AK – M. Stefanishion
3. ONT – T. Kraus