Manor Reign Recap: Lee Returns with Goal, Reign Win Fifth Straight

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When it was decided to hold a Star Wars-themed evening at Toyota Arena, it was quite fitting to schedule it on a night that the Reign hosted one of the season’s biggest rivals from just a short jump across the galaxy.

Bakersfield visited Ontario on Saturday looking to avenge their 4-3 loss from the weekend prior.

Before taking the ice, however, coach Marco Sturm and his coaching staff were once again doing roster gymnastics trying to figure out which players would be available for them.

Over the prior 48 hours, it appeared that defenseman Jacob Moverare was headed back to the AHL, only to see a last-minute change keep him up with the Kings on their Canadian road trip.

Then, in response to an injury suffered by Phil Danault, Kings management pulled Akil Thomas out of the Bakersfield rematch, in preparation of the 24-year-old’s first call-up to the NHL. Sturm had nothing but glowing remarks for his young forward’s promotion though — appearing downright giddy as he explained how he gave Thomas the news just a few hours before puck drop.

And finally, all eyes were on the team’s leading scorer, Sammy Fagemo, who hasn’t played in over a week because of an injury. Although he’s said to be ‘getting close’ after joining the team at practice, Fagemo did not play in this one. His return looks rather imminent, probably later this week.

Now, back to the game…

Rookie Franky Pinelli was promoted to second line center with Charles Hudon and Tyler Madden in Thomas’ absence – and in his first shift with his new-look line, Pinelli (9) opened the scoring, giving Ontario an early 1-0 lead. Reading off his linemates’ press to the net, the first-year pro crashed the net and put away a rebound for a nice looking goal.

Pinelli makes the jump to hyperspace and sinks the puck in the net!#ReignTrain | #BAKvsONT | @RealFunBox pic.twitter.com/ObogxO0JNm

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) March 31, 2024


The Condors then claimed the next two goals, putting the visitors up 2-1.

Playing for the first time in two months, Reign forward Andre Lee (5) didn’t look like somebody who had missed 24 games due to injury. Instead, he opted to play hero in his return by finishing a physical effort and snapping home a goal to tie things up 2-2 late in the middle frame.

Welcome back Andre Lee!#ReignTrain | #BAKvsONT | @RealFunBox pic.twitter.com/Kx15m1X5ky

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) March 31, 2024


As the game flipped to the final period, Nikita Pavlychev (5) scored three minutes into the third to take the lead. Yet, Bakersfield used a power play goal to even things at 3-3.

It didn’t stay that way for long, as just 1:43 later — and on a power play of their own — Ontario took a 4-3 advantage when Martin Chromiak found T.J. Tynan (9) on the far side behind the goaltender. Despite a late push by Bakersfield with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Reign netminder Erik Portillo shut the door the rest of the way and helped Ontario claim their fifth straight victory.

A perfect pass from Chromiak to Tynan for the goal!! #ReignTrain | #BAKvsONT | @RealFunBox pic.twitter.com/53RHqDyQvX

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) March 31, 2024


With the win, Ontario is also 4-3 against their Kern County rivals and have one final meeting planned in Bakersfield just before the Calder Cup playoffs begin in a few weeks. The Reign are also in a late season stretch where they’ve earned points in 17 of the past 20 games (14-3-3).

‘Return of the Lee’: The 6-foot-5 forward has missed a total of 36 games this season, and when healthy, Lee has nine points (5G, 4A) in 28 games played. The second-year pro is coming off a rookie campaign of nine points (6G, 3A) in 58 games. A full season of health next year could be the perfect springboard to launch his career forward, similar to teammate Thomas’ breakout this season.

‘The Rise of Portillo’: Along with his 20th win in his rookie campaign, the young goaltender now boasts a 2.34 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage. Over his past 12 starts, the 6-foot-6 Swede has amassed a record of 8-2-2 between the pipes.

‘The Phantom Madden’: Kings prospect Tyler Madden continues to have his impact on games down the stretch. The third-year pro extended his points streak to five games, collecting six points (2G, 4A) during this run. The 24-year-old signed a one-year contract with the Kings this past summer and will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer, with arbitration rights.

The Reign look forward to a two-game schedule this week, taking on the Silver Knights in Henderson Wednesday before returning home to host San Jose on Saturday night.

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