Loveland, CO -- The Ontario Reign (33-16-3-2), proud affiliate of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, clinched playoff berth with a 9-8 shootout victory against the Colorado Eagles (29-19-1-5) at the Budweiser Events Center before 5,289 on Friday, Feb. 24.
In the first period, Colorado took an early lead with a goal at 1:33 by Ben Chiarot with the assists going to Kevin Ulanski and Riley Nelson. About ten minutes later, Aaron Slattengren netted the Eagles’ second goal. The gap was widened as Forney scored his first goal of the game in a left-to-right glove-side shot. Chad Costello and Gord Burnett picked up a point apiece. Vincent LoVerde answered the Eagles with a goal just 27 seconds later. Kyle Kraemer extended his point streak to 13 games when he passed the puck up to Tristan King who centered it to LoVerde who was able to beat Kyle Jones with a hard shot. The Reign took advantage of their five-on-three power-play as Kevin Estrada quickly made the most of Derek Couture and Alan Mazur’s set-up, closing the first frame 3-2.
The second period had a combined nine goals (seven power-play goals) and 60 penalty minutes. The scoring began less than one minute into play as Nelson shot one up high on J.F. Berube’s blocker side on a pass from Ulanski and Aaron Schneekloth. Shortly after, Mazur set up the next play with King in front of the Colorado net allowing Kramer to bury one during the Reign power-play. The Eagles once again extended their lead to two with Forney’s second of the night.
At 9:37 of the second period, Bill Bagron recorded his fourth short-handed goal of the season, putting him in a tie for the league lead, with a shot through Jones’ five-hole on a pass from Everett Sheen. Colorado once again widened the gap with two power-play goals just 85 seconds apart. Forney’s hat-trick goal at 11:57 gave the Eagles their second three-point lead of the game. Not giving up momentum, Ontario returned back-to-back power-play goals less than two minutes apart. Kraemer netted his second of the night on Mazur’s third assist, and Couture’s second. Huxley’s goal came from King’s third assist and Sheen’s second of the night. Refusing to allow the Reign to trail by less than two, Schneekloth netted what would be Colorado’s last goal of the contest at 19:50.
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, Ontario came within one with Pat Bowen’s third goal of the season from a strong pass he shot hard from the blueline at 2:08. Carrozzi denied a breakaway opportunity for Colorado’s point leader, Costello, followed by a huge stop to Costello’s penalty shot. With less than four minutes left in the stanza, Sheen scored the equalizer, the first the Reign had seen since the first minute of play. The forward’s first goal of the game came from Couture and Huxley, who both earned three points in the game. The regulation clock ran out and the game headed into overtime.
After the sudden-death, overtime period, Carrozzi and Jones faced a shootout; Carrozzi’s fifth of the season, Jones’ seventh. Colorado sent four skaters out, none of which could get one past the Ontario goaltender. Kraemer opened up the Reign’s shootout goal scoring and Tristan King’s tally closed the game giving the Reign the two points they needed to clench a playoff spot with a 9-8 victory.
Three stars: 1) COL- Forney 2) COL- Costello 3) ONT - Sheen