Photo credit: @sjbarracuda
By Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Ontario Reign have had their way with the San Jose Barracuda this season. Their success continued once again in a 4-3 victory over their Pacific Divison rival on Wednesday evening at SAP Center.
The loss is the third in the row for San Jose, while Ontario has points in five straight games and are now 4-1 against the ‘Cuda this season.
This was the first game featuring the three players that were sent down by the San Jose Sharks: Noah Gregor, Joachim Blichfeld and Dylan Gambrell. All three were on the number one line together set by assistant head coaches Michael Chiassson and Johnny Bonneau.
Ontario (13-11-3-1) drew first blood just under eight minutes in the first period. Chaz Reddekopp sent a cross ice pass from left point over to the right where Paul LaDue snapped a wrist shot past Cuda goalie Josef Korenar for his second goal of the season at the 7:41 mark.
San Jose (9-14-0-2) scored the equalizer under a minute later when Maxim Letunov led a rush into the Reign defensive zone and fed a pass up to Lukas Radil near the right slot. Radil then fed it back up to Nick DeSimone at the right point. DeSimone surveyed the ice before sending a shot through a sea of traffic that went past the five-hole of Reign goalie Cal Petersen for his third goal of the season at the 8:32 mark.
Ontario had a chance to extend their lead while on the power play when Nich Meloche went into the sinbin for slashing. Korenar came up huge stopping a shot from the point and then the immediate rebound chance from Brett Sutter as he slid over to the left with a pad save to keep the score even at 1-1.
The Reign outshot the ‘Cuda in 15-10 in the opening 20 minutes as they controlled play, outshooting San Jose 15-5 after the first two minutes.
San Jose gained the lead early on the power play early in the second period. Jonny Brodzinski did a spin-a-round cross-ice pass over to Blichfeld. The Danish native touched passed into the middle where Kellamn tapped home the puck into an empty net for a tic-tac-toe goal, his fourth of the season at the 3:19 mark.
“I think I’m more comfortable out there,” said Blichfeld regarding how his game has evolved this season. “I’m making more plays with the puck, yeah feeling more comfortable.”
Like in the first period, the lead didn’t last long as Ontario returned the favor 50 seconds later. Jaret Anderson-Dolan won a faceoff draw back up to Austin Strand from just above the right faceoff circle. Strand delayed a bit before firing a slap shot just under the arm of Korenar for his fifth goal of the season at the 4:09 mark.
“Our 5-on-5 play we gotta do a better job. We had great O-zone possession. We gotta do a better job at getting inside, whether that’s (generating) traffic or it’s taking the puck to the net,” said Chiasson.
Korenar bailed out his team twice in the middle frame when defensive breakdowns led to golden scoring opportunities for Ontairo. A loose puck jumped on to the stick of Johan Sodergren, whose point-blank shot was stoned away by the Czech goaltender with under 13 minutes remaining. Then he spoiled a 2-on-0 break when he absolutely robbed Anderson-Dolan with a left pad save.
“Like always he tries to keep us in the game and most nights he does. When we get the chances, we gotta score on those when he keeps making save after save for us,” said Blichfeld.
Ontario regained the lead on the power play late in the period. Boko Imama picked up the puck at the right faceoff circle. He then skated back up to the middle of the slot where he snapped a wrist shot that was tipped past Korenar by Sutter, who was camped out in front of the crease. The second goal of the season for the Reign captain, that came at the 16:10 mark, snapped an 18-game goal-less drought for Sutter.
“They were getting pucks to the net, getting bodies to the net, getting rebounds. And that’s something we just weren’t doing. We had a lot of offensive zone time, it looks pretty but it’s not really effective,” said Brodzinski.
Ontario scored an insurance goal right at the 6:00 mark of the third period. Imama snapped a wrist shot on goal from the right slot. Korenar wasn’t able to freeze the rebound as Mason Bergh slid the puck underneath the right pad of Korenar for his second goal of the season. Bergh snapped a seven-game goal-less drought.
San Jose cut the lead to one-goal deficit with Korenar pulled for an extra attacker. Thomas Gregoire fed a pass over to Blichfeld just above the right faceoff circle. Blichfeld then lasered a wrist shot past Petersen into the far side of the net for his 10th goal of the season at the 17:56 mark.
“I think when Butchie (Blichfeld) has a shooting mentality, when the puck is on his stick and he’s looking to shoot, he’s a threat,” said ‘Cuda co-head coach Chiasson.
The calls seemed to be one-sided throughout the game as San Jose was frustrated with the lack of calls against Ontario. Jeffery Viel received a game misconduct penalty with under a minute remaining in the second period for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing with the officials.
Petersen made 29 saves on 32 shots to earn his 12th win on the season. Korenar, who was arguably the best player on the ice for the ‘Cuda, made 33 saves on 37 shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 1-for-2 on the power play. Ontario was 0-for-3.
‘Cuda defenseman Jacob Middleton was also reassigned back down by the Sharks and played in the game.
Letunov, with the assist on DeSimone’s goal, extended his home point streak to eight games and has points in 12 of his last 13 games overall.
The announced attendance was 2,892.
UP NEXT: San Jose travel down to San Diego to take on the Gulls on Friday 12/20 at 7:00 pm at Pachenga Arena.