ONTARIO, Calif. – The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, defeated the Idaho Steelheads, 3 to 2, before 3,205 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena Saturday night in game four of their best-of-five quarterfinal series of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Knowing that their backs were to the proverbial wall, the Reign came out and dominated much of the first period. With early pressure, the Reign outshot the Steelheads 5 to 1 in the game’s first seven minutes. Goalie Chris Carrozzi made a point blank save off Steelhead captain Marty Fichel at the ten minute mark. With the fans cheering the home team on, Bill Bagron redirected a pass by Tristan King at 14:10 just as a Reign power play expired giving Ontario a 1 to 0 lead. With just eight seconds remaining in the first period, King and Jason Beeman hovered around Idaho goalie Jerry Kuhn almost putting the puck into the net.
The scoring picked up in the second period. Geoff Irwin got an early goal at the one minute mark from King’s point blank pass. Idaho got on the scoreboard at 9:19 with a nifty tip in by Chad Nehring from a shot by Jacob Cepis making the score 2 to 1. At 10:31 with the Reign on a power play, Ontario increased its lead to 3 to 1 as Kevin Estrada redirected a long shot by defenseman Chris Huxley. With four minutes remaining, Cepis of Idaho had an uncontested breakaway chance that was steered aside by Carrozzi. The period’s scoring ended as Steelheads forward, Aaron Lewicki blasted a shot from the left faceoff circle that got past Carrozzi. The period ended with Ontario outshooting Idaho by six shots and leading by one goal.
Clinging to a one goal lead, the Reign clamped down on Idaho keeping the Steelheads to three shots in the third period’s first ten minutes. J. D. Watt had a breakaway turned aside at eight minutes. With Irwin off for interference, Derek LeBlanc almost tapped in the puck as Carrozzi sprawled to cover the net. With five minutes remaining, Beeman was called for tripping while Idaho’s Michael Neal was put in the penalty box for holding. Despite skating with four players each, neither team scored setting up an intense ending to the playoff game. A desperate Idaho squad began peppering the Ontario goal with shots that were all turned aside by Carrozzi. With 28 seconds left Idaho pulled their goalie but the Reign stood strong and made sure that there would be a fifth and deciding game.
Chris Carrozzi was the victor for the Reign, stopping 26 shots, while Steelheads goalie Jerry Kuhn took the loss with 23 saves.
Three stars: 1) ONT – Kevin Estrada 2) ONT – Chris Huxley 3) ONT – Geoff Irwin