Manor Reign Recap: RD3, GM3 – Ontario Postseason Ends with Sweep By Coachella Valley


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member

After dropping behind Coachella Valley in the best-of-five series by two games, the Ontario Reign were forced into a corner Sunday night with a must-win Game 3. Toyota Arena was packed to the brim with a passionately loud contingent of fans seeing their first Division Final game since the inaugural 2015-16 AHL Ontario team.

However, the fanfare wasn’t enough to bring home a victory in the pivotal contest. Ontario allowed three unanswered goals and lost 3-2, thus ending what began as a flawless run to this season’s Calder Cup.

Before the game, Reign coach Marco Sturm tinkered lines and moved Tyler Madden to the top group and reunited Alex Turcotte with Akil Thomas, a pairing which showed success throughout the regular season.

The changes sparked a thrilling first period for the home crowd as both of the swapped players and each line of the Top 6 scored, with Turcotte (2) starting it off and Madden (5) putting away a puck at the goal-mouth.


— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) May 20, 2024

MADDEN MAKES IT 2!!#AllAboard | #CVvsONT

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) May 20, 2024

The Top 6 had struggled in the series to produce any goals at even-strength all series, and it only took one period after Sturm’s adjustments to score two quick goals to take a 2-0 lead by the first intermission.

The second period was less friendly for Ontario.

Coachella Valley found the back of the net early on an outnumbered rush where the extra forward was open enough to fire a sharp wrist shot over the shoulder and just passed the face mask of goaltender Erik Portillo. Then six minutes later, the visitors tied it up when a heavy point shot deflected off Brandt Clarke’s stick into the goal.

As the score evened and period turned, Coachella Valley found the go-ahead goal just 46 seconds into the final frame. Ontario’s failed coverage allowed an open man on the doorstep to quickly snap a shot passed Portillo for a 3-2 lead.

The Reign were only able to muster seven shots throughout the final period of play and could not find the equalizer. A late power play gave the home team some life and a stellar Firebird penalty kill squandered all chances, blocking multiple heavy shots with players in shooting lanes.

The final horn sounded the end of Game 3 and Ontario’s postseason run.

After sweeping their first two opponents, the Reign found themselves swept by a Firebird squad which finished best in the Western Conference regular season standings.

Marco Sturm Postgame: Sturm’s final media scrum of the season shed light on a multitude of topics ranging from player progression, lineup decisions, team focus throughout the season, and his future aspirations, among other things. While there’s a lot to unpack, and Mayor’s Manor will do so over the course of the coming days, Sturm described a disappointing series where execution and attention to detail was his team’s fault.

Losing the first game was difficult for him, when his team outshot Coachella Valley 31-15 and still fell short a goal. Sturm felt the depth of the Firebirds roster required a perfect game by the Reign in order to beat the powerhouse team.

Marco Sturm — "I'm a head coach"

More on his future…

— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) May 20, 2024

More from Marco Sturn postgame last night, including comments on Alex Turcotte…

— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) May 20, 2024

Portillo’s First Postseason: While it was encouraging to see Portillo have many strong performances in his first professional playoff run, the most underlying result of the postseason was the 23-year-old’s emergence as Ontario’s de facto number one goaltender. Yes, the young rookie began the playoffs with five straight wins, an impressive 1.20 goals-against-average, and .956 save-percentage. And when the team fell behind in this series and Portillo allowed five goals in Game 2, Sturm turned to his starter once again to defend the net in a must-win Game 3.

While the numbers soured in the Coachella Valley series (3.67 GAA, .833 SV%), Portillo was not to blame solely for most of those goals-allowed, as Ontario’s patented team-wide focus of defense seemed to falter down the stretch, allowing three times the amount of goals as they did in the prior two series.

Prospects Lee-ding the Way: When looking at the top performers on the Reign, Kings prospects Madden and Andre Lee both led the team in goals with five and four, respectively, over the eight-game run. Both youngsters found the net in big-game moments with Madden chipping in two game-winning goals and Lee potting another.

Thomas/Turcotte Duo: The two blue-chip prospects flourished and showed strong postseasons in their still young careers. In eight games, Thomas had five points (2G, 3A) and Turcotte scored four points (2G, 2A), while both netting a game-winning goal apiece. Both saw time with the Kings during the regular season and are eyeing full-time spots in Los Angeles this fall.

Clarke’s Playoff Debut: The AHL is coined as a developmental league, and there’s no better way to develop the young prospects than a deep playoff run. Playing in big minutes in the biggest games, Clarke was exposed to opponents’ best players every night. Even so, in his first postseason run of his pro career, the 21-year-old contributed with six assists and a plus-one rating. Slated to join LA in the upcoming season, Clarke was looking forward to making a deep run and winning a Calder Cup.


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