ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL Los Angeles Kings and AHL Manchester Monarchs, was eliminated from the playoffs after the Stockton Thunder won game 7 with a final score of 5-4. Ontario closed the season in front of 3,466 at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Wednesday evening.
Stockton drew first blood in Game 7 at 8:32 in the first period. Defenseman Robbie Bina beat Ontario netminder Jeff Zatkoff with a wrister into the top shelf during a power play. Center Cory Urquhart and defenseman Cleve Kinley picked up the assists on the goal.
Reign right wing Geoff Walker sent the puck over the red line behind Stockton goaltender Parker Van Buskirk a few minutes later, but the goal was later waved off as the officials called an interference minor behind the play.
At 13:05, defenseman Andrew Martens tied it up and gave the Reign their first goal of the night. Center Jon Francisco won the face-off to the left of Van Buskirk and fed it to Martens, who skated to the front of the crease and slid a backhand into the net.
The Thunder claimed the next three goals and a 4-1 lead. Urquhart notched Stockton’s second goal with his shot that went up and over Zatkoff and into the top shelf. Left wing Igor Gongalsky scored the next goal at 15:28, with his shot into the top shelf. Right wing James Bates picked up a power play goal for the Thunder with his bid from the slot. The clubs headed into the second period with Stockton leading, 4-1.
After a scoreless second period, Reign right wing Brad Mehalko cut the Thunder’s lead to two points with his goal at 2:16 in the third period. Mehalko picked up the puck in front of the net and threw it around Van Buskirk with an assist from captain Jon Francisco.
Stockton answered back just over three minutes later during a power play. Center Damian Surma took a shot on goal that was deflected past Zatkoff on his glove side by center Craig Valette. Valette increased the Thunder’s lead and brought the score to 5-2.
The Reign responded with their own goal at 12:00 from center Tim Kraus. Right wing Bud Holloway threw a pass to Geoff Walker from the slot. Walker fed the puck across to Kraus, who smashed it into the top of the net, making the score 5-3 with Stockton in the lead.
Geoff Walker picked up his second point of the match with just over three minutes left to play in regulation. After defenseman P.J. Atherton took a shot on goal that was saved but not covered up, there was a scramble in front of the net. Walker picked up the puck and threw it up into the top corner over the shoulder of Van Buskirk. Bud Holloway notched his second point of the night, and the Reign moved within one point of the Thunder.
Ontario pulled Zatkoff for the extra attacker as time ran out, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Stockton won the game with a final score of Thunder 5, Reign 4. The Thunder will move on to the Pacific Division Finals on Friday.
To view the box score, click here.
1. STK – P. Van Buskirk
2. ONT – G. Walker
3. STK – C. Urquhart