ONTARIO, Calif. - The Ontario Reign, proud affiliate of the NHL Los Angeles Kings and the AHL Manchester Monarchs fell to the Utah Grizzlies, 4-3, in an overtime bout Friday evening, in front of 4,792 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Jon Francisco netted two goals in the win, with Andrew Martens picking up one, in the first of two back-to-back games for the clubs in as many days.
In a first period battle that stirred up the heat between the two clubs early, the Ontario Reign (20-15-1-1) took a one goal lead over the Utah Grizzlies (15-14-4-3) just nine minutes into the stanza. Reign Center Jon Francisco stole the puck near center ice and fired a shot at Grizzlies goaltender Michael Mole, who blocked the puck and sent a rebound out to the middle of the circles. Francisco and a storm of players pushed forward after the rebound, sending the puck through the legs of Mole to light the lamp for Ontario. Francisco registered the goal on the play, netting his 14th of the season, putting the Reign ahead, 1-0.
The Grizzlies came back and tied the match, 1-1, at 15:21 in the period. Right wing James Brannigan found the end of a pass from left wing Scott Thauwald in front of the Reign net, taking the puck top shelf on the power play.
The Reign controlled the second period, posting the only goal to the scoreboard in the 20-minutes of play. Four minutes into the stanza, Reign captain Jon Francisco registered his second goal of the night as he tipped the puck past Mole to push the Reign ahead of the Grizzlies, 2-1. Defenseman David Walker and left wing Todd Jackson registered the assists on the play, with Walker extending his assist streak to two games (2a).
The clubs exchanged a set of goals early in the third, with Ontario’s Andrew Martens picking up his fourth goal of the season only 34-seconds into the period. Martens ripped a one-timer from near the blue-line off a pass from right wing Itan Chavira and center Jon Francisco, leaving Mole standing still in the net as the Reign pulled ahead, 3-1. Two minutes later, Grizzlies left wing Evan Kotsopoulos brought Utah within one as he registered the team’s second power play goal of the night, netting the puck past Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, to make the score, 3-2. Late in the period, Utah tied the match, 3-3, as right wing Tim Verbeek found the net past goaltender John Murray, who replaced Zatkoff at 13:20 in the stanza after he left the ice unexpectedly. Both teams remained tied through the final minutes of regulation, sending the match into sudden death overtime.
The teams went into the extra stanza with the Grizzlies on the man advantage, after Reign right wing Brad Mehalko found himself in the penalty box for a hooking minor in the last minute of the third period. Less then a minute into play, Grizzlies forward Tom May took a shot at the Reign net, lighting the lamp as the puck found its way under Murray’s legs and into the net to end the match. Utah’s goal pushed the Grizzlies into the lead, ending the game with a final score, Reign 3, Grizzlies 4.
* Jeff Zatkoff stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced in the match, and John Murray blocked six of the eight he faced
* Jon Francisco tied his season-high points in a game with three in the match (2g, 1a)
* The Reign continue to sit in first place in the Pacific Division, eight points ahead of the Las Vegas Wranglers and Stockton Thunder in second place