Manor Reign Recap: RD2, GM1 – Ontario Victory Provides 1-0 Series Lead

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Steaming into the opening game of the second round, the Ontario Reign subdued the visiting Abbotsford Canucks 3-1 at Toyota Arena on Wednesday, taking a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series.

While it took a full period for both teams to settle in and become reacquainted with each other, the Reign were first on the board halfway through the middle frame, receiving two consecutive goals from T.J. Tynan (1) and Alex Turcotte (1). Abbotsford cut the lead in half a few minutes later, only to see Nikita Pavlychev (1) retort with his first career playoff goal soon thereafter, restoring Ontario’s two-goal cushion at 3-1.

Reign goaltender Erik Portillo shut the door the rest of the way, earning his third straight postseason victory.

Speaking with media after the game, Ontario head coach Marco Sturm shared all praise for his squad’s attention to detail and defensive structure. The Reign have allowed only three goals in as many playoff games, and Sturm’s trust throughout his lineup has permitted the bench boss to roll all four lines at any point throughout the contests.

Ontario had seen stretches during the regular season where defensive focus slipped toward too much emphasis on offense, rather than game management and playing sound defense. That said, whatever tinkering Sturm has had with his group, the Reign boast a record of 23-5-2 over the past 30 games – including three nearly perfect playoff matches – and finished the regular season sixth in goals-allowed.

He also turned to his bottom six heavyweights for the third game in a row, leaving rookie Francesco Pinelli and sophomore Martin Chromiak scratched once again. It’s hard to argue with a recipe that has won games handedly, especially while Ontario faces a second-round opponent that is less physical than Bakersfield was in Round 1. While it’s an advantage for the Reign right now; if scoring ever becomes a concern, look for the team’s fourth and sixth regular season goal-scoring leaders to slot back into the lineup.

Postseason Portillo: The rookie goaltender continues his stellar campaign with dependable play in all three postseason games. He’s allowed only one even-strength goal, which came off a broken sequence against the Canucks Wednesday. The 6-foot-6 backstop finished the regular season with seven straight wins before dropping the final game of the season and has a .962 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against-average in the playoffs thus far.

Turcotte Time: Scoring the first postseason goal of his pro career, Turcotte is showing to be an impact player come this time of year. The 23-year-old has five points (1G, 4A) in eight career playoff games. After showing poise in big games for the US National Program, that same sense of style is surfacing in this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs. Turcotte is influencing big opportunities while playing with skilled players like Tynan and Sammy Fagemo.

Rookie Clarke: With an assist in both first round games and a solid showing against Abbotsford in Game 1, Brandt Clarke drew heavy praise from his head coach, saying that he looked like Kings icon Drew Doughty on the blue line. Sturm mentioned the AHL All-Star’s offensive impact while specifically commending his defensive play, something the organization has focused intently on for the young prospect.

What to Watch For: With Ontario’s parent LA Kings knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night, keep an eye on the availability of goaltender Aaron Dell. He qualifies for inclusion on the AHL playoff roster. While juggling players around at the NHL Trade Deadline, defenseman Jacob Moverare was also qualified for inclusion. The Swedish blueliner played 34 games with the Reign and was a leader during his time with the team earlier this season. We’ll have to see if he rejoins Ontario in the coming days.

Game 2 of the second round is set for Sunday with a 3PM PDT puck drop, and can be viewed on AHLTV as well as locally on KCAL9.

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