Manor Reign Recap: Grundstrom Scores, Lee Steals the Show Again, Ontario Victory Locks Down Home Ice in Playoffs

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Coming off an emotional home win against the Gulls on Friday, the Reign traveled to Henderson for a quick turnaround match and a back-to-back game against the Silver Knights. With an opportunity to clinch home ice for the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs on the line, Ontario coach Marco Sturm was likely thankful to receive the services of old friend, Carl Grundstrom.

Up with the Kings full-time for the past four seasons, Grundstrom suffered an injury in February and required a stint on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). The 26-year-old elected to rejoin his former American Hockey League team in an effort to rehabilitate and become game-ready as the Kings shift their focus to the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Facing ex-Reign teammate Sheldon Rempal on Saturday night, Grundstrom’s (1) impact was immediately felt when he scored the first goal of the game just 2:33 into the opening frame. Showing the trust Sturm had in Grundstrom, he was playing on the top line with T.J. Tynan and Sammy Fagemo.

WELCOME BACK TO THE ICE CARL GRUNDSTROM#ReignTrain | #ONTvsHSK pic.twitter.com/rIqPaTYq78

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 14, 2024


Ontario scored again quickly on their next shot after Samuel Helenius slipped a slick pass to spring Jacob Doty (6) on a break behind the opposing defenders to make it 2-0. And it didn’t stop there…

On the very next Reign shot, Brandt Clarke (9) finished an offensive rush where he skated up the wing and snapped a goal far side to beat the goaltender. Ontario scored three goals on their first four shots and it was 3-0 only six minutes into the game.

Clark(thre)e#ReignTrain | #ONTvsHSK pic.twitter.com/AXRVQJYR7j

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 14, 2024


Henderson struck back with a shorthanded goal minutes later. After a bad bounce off the lineman’s skates, the Silver Knights rushed the Reign zone and placed a perfect shot over the shoulder of starter Erik Portillo, 3-1.

The Reign quickly snuffed any momentum from the goal and rebounded with another of their own only 39 seconds later. On their sixth shot of the game, Ontario took a 4-1 lead when Grundstrom found Hayden Hodgson (6), forcing Henderson into an early goalie change 8:47 into the game.

They socred but then we said bet!#ReignTrain | #ONTvsHSK pic.twitter.com/MoiaZEch2U

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 14, 2024


The first period moved quickly and ended with a three-goal lead for the Reign; however, the second period is where the wheels fell off.

Sturm had spoken often over the past week about opportunities missed and highlighted moments of concern where his team would get away from their structure at times and allow opponents back into games. The second period began and the worrisome play reared its ugly head, as the Reign struggled to hold the lead – giving up three straight goals, including one on the penalty kill.

Opening the third period tied 4-4, the Reign rallied despite a heavy shot differential against, and Andre Lee (8) tucked away a rebound tally that would serve as the game-winner in this one. Portillo turned aside any further chances and shut the door to win his sixth straight game on a back-to-back effort with a final score of 5-4.

ANDRE LEE FAMILY FUN ZONE#ReignTrain | #ONTvsHSK pic.twitter.com/Xx7dckuzIi

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 14, 2024


The win in Henderson mathematically secured home-ice for the Reign in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. That will be a three-game series with the entire set played only at the home team’s arena, so grabbing this advantage was important for Sturm and his club. A tweet sent out by the team alluded to April 24th as the possible start of the series.

Portillo’s Test: After Friday’s win against San Diego, Sturm expressed his desire to name a number one goaltender to lead the Reign through the playoffs – and he prefers Portillo. To prepare his rookie goaltender for the heavier workload, Ontario’s bench boss turned to Portillo again in the second night of a back-to-back weekend set. While allowing four goals, the 6-foot-6 netminder probably could have used help from his teammates in all of those situations except for one, in which he’d probably like back.

This was only Portillo’s second back-to-back opportunity, yet he came away with two wins. In his prior set in December, he lost both games against Abbotsford and allowed nine goals combined in the two games.

Grundstrom Reigns (Again): During the media availability postgame, Sturm praised Grundstrom and his decision to come down to the AHL to prepare himself to be game-ready for his NHL return. The Swedish forward chipped in two points (1G, 1A) in helping Ontario earn the victory. It marked his first AHL game since the 2019-2020 season.

Lee is Clutch: The towering forward has impacted his team immediately in his return from injury with five points (4G, 1A) in six games, including his first game-winning goal of the season in this one. His previous goals this month have been equally important, either tying the game of giving Ontario the go-ahead goal.

Turc Contributes: Playing in the third game of a conditioning assignment, Alex Turcotte has tallied points in two straight contests (2A) and has his fingerprints on all three contests. He’s looked good and appears back to game shape after missing some time with an upper-body injury.

Rookie Brandt Clarke: The skilled blueliner has upped his contributions with eight points (1G, 7A) in nine games, including his first goal since returning from his NHL call-up. In Clarke’s first professional season, he’s turned heads with 42 points (9G, 33A) in 47 games played while leading all rookie defensemen (with at least 10 games played) in points-per-game.

What to Watch For: The Reign enter their final week of the season with three road games. They’ll travel to Bakersfield Wednesday to take on the Condors and finish with a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader against the Eagles in Colorado.

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