Manor Reign Recap: Fagemo Ties it Late; Moverare Scores Winner in OT

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It was a playoff-like atmosphere inside Toyota Arena on Friday night when the Pacific Division-leading Coachella Valley Firebirds came to town for another game with the Reign. Throughout 2023-24, Ontario seems to bring their best when facing last year’s Western Conference Champions, and it was no different when they met up for the sixth game of their eight-game series.

Ontario asserted presence in the first period by shooting often and driving the net, while keeping pace with the visitor’s intensity. Taking obligation to a scrum in front of the benches, Kings prospect Akil Thomas set the mood and dropped his gloves with Ryan Winterton. Both players are not known for being fighters, but they each exchanged a few blows in Thomas’ second fight in his pro career.

Both teams held steady and finished through two periods tied at zero.

Scoreless in Ontario after 40 minutes, but this happened…

The. Real. Deal. pic.twitter.com/yhxq8JKTLY

— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) February 24, 2024


Just under three minutes into the third, the Firebirds shot a puck from up high through traffic (and a likely screen) that beat Reign netminder Aaron Dell over his shoulder. Although Coachella Valley took a 1-0 lead, that goal wound up being the only tally to get by the veteran goaltender, who was terrific in keeping his team in the game.

Later, with about seven minutes remaining in the final frame, Ontario used the power play to build momentum for their final offensive push. Though they didn’t score, the home team continued to press hard; especially after coach Marco Sturm pulled Dell for an extra attacker at the two-and-half minute mark.

Flipping the script from what happened to them on Wednesday night, the Reign tied things up with just 55 seconds left on the clock. When the puck snapped around the perimeter, over to leading scorer Sammy Fagemo, he ripped a clean wrister over the far shoulder to make it a 1-1 contest. The young sniper’s 24th goal was an impressive, NHL-caliber shot from his usual office at the top of the left circle.

Dell proceeded to save the game with seconds remaining when a Firebirds player was left alone in the low slot and was forced to make a pad-stacking, lunge save that would ultimately send the game to an extra frame.

Four minutes into overtime, Sturm sent out the trio of Tyler Madden, T.J. Tynan, and Jacob Moverare. Tynan brought the puck down the boards to slip past a defender, before sending a pass to a vacant Moverare directly in the center of the slot. The Swedish defender snapped a quick shot to cap off a worthy comeback and secured a 2-1 Reign victory.

In doing so, Ontario moved to a record of 4-2 against the division leaders and prevented the road team from going a perfect 6-0 in the season series. Very few AHL teams have a coaching staff like the Firebirds with the pedigree of Stanley Cup-winning head coach Dan Bylsma, and yet the Reign have continually kept pace with a team that is 13 points ahead of them in the standings. In their four wins over the Firebirds this season, two have come via shutouts and another pair in overtime.

Postgame, Sturm mentioned the play of his goaltender as being a significant factor in his club earning a victory. The second-year head coach admitted that Dell hasn’t been at his best but has seen him come through of late and appeared proud of the direction his tender was heading after just his fourth game since joining the Reign. In his first two outings, Dell posted a meager .816 save-percentage and 4.50 goals-against-average, yet has improved with a stellar .939 save-percentage and 2.00 goals-against-average in his last two performances.

The 34-year-old veteran has a lot of experience to offer the Reign heading into the final 23 games of the regular season, and as they continue fighting for a playoff spot. In his career, Dell has played 130 NHL games spanning seven seasons, including several Stanley Cup Playoff runs and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. He’s also played behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, and Jack Hughes.

The Reign travel to San Diego to take on the rival Gulls Saturday evening at 6:00pm PST.

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