ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, went down in defeat to the Idaho Steelheads, 5 to 0, before 3,030 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena Monday night in game 5 of their best-of-five quarterfinal series of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Twice the Ontario Reign have won the ECHL’s Pacific Division in the past four years and twice they have been eliminated in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Although Idaho dominated the fifth and final game of this year’s series, the Reign fought hard to the very end.
All was on the line for the Reign and the seventh seeded Steelheads on a warm April night in Ontario, California. Coach Jason Christie chose to start Chris Carrozzi for the second game in a row while Idaho coach Hardy Sauter countered with his goaltending ace, Jerry Kuhn.
Adrian Van de Mosselaer set the tone with two big hits at the start of the game but it was Idaho goalie Kuhn who made two early great saves on J. D. Watt and Kevin Estrada. With Jason Beeman off for interference, the Steelheads controlled the puck in the Reign zone and Jacob Cepis scored his third goal of the series, putting one past Carrozzi just as the penalty was expiring at 7:50. Idaho continued its momentum with deft puck handling and survived two consecutive penalties which included a Reign two man advantage for twenty-five seconds. The action throughout the period was wide open with both teams recording 16 shots each.
The teams came out with tight checking for the first four minutes of the second period with neither team able to put a shot on goal. Reign got the first five shots of the period and seemed to be getting close to scoring until Reign forward Geoff Irwin took a four minute penalty at 5:51 for high sticking Idaho’s Ian Lowe. On the second of the penalties, Idaho scored its second goal on a Joel Pereira shot at 8:10. Estrada appeared to slip the puck past Kuhn at 11:30 but, unfortunately for the Reign, the referee had blown down the play. At 14:18, after a Kuhn save on C.J. Stretch, a long rebound came out and Steelhead forward Cepis gathered the puck, skated down the ice, and scored his second goal of the game to give Idaho a three goal lead. With two minutes remaining, Michael Neal banged in Idaho’s fourth goal of the game as he skated just outside the Reign goal crease.
Idaho immediately kept up their scoring advantage as Cody Purves scored his second goal of the playoffs during a power play at 37 seconds as J. F. Berube came in to replace Carrozzi at the start of the third period. Seven minutes into the period, Tristan King came close to putting the Reign on the scoreboard but he just missed the right corner of the Idaho goal.
In a series marked with hard checking and numerous fisticuffs, the teams played a relatively clean game. The Reign spent the majority of the final period taking shot after shot but Idaho’s Kuhn was up to the task in the climatic game as he turned away 46 Ontario attempts.
After missing the playoffs the past two years, the Reign faithful were treated to an exciting season. The franchise has led the ECHL in attendance the past three seasons and in the four years of the club’s existence, 910,743 fans have poured into Citizen’s Business Bank Arena. After the traditional handshake between Idaho and Ontario, the three thousand plus fans in the building gave the Reign players a standing ovation.
Three stars: 1) IDH – Jacob Cepis 2) IDH – Jerry Kuhn 3) IDH – Kory Scoran