J.P. Hoornstra, The Sun Newspaper
ONTARIO - Not for a long time had a game ended this way for the Reign, with the horn blaring, fans cheering and the sense of relief resting in their locker room.
Michael Pelech's goal 1:44 into overtime made it possible in a 4-3 victory in front of 6,419 at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Sunday that ended the Reign's season-long losing streak at five.
"It's nice to be home again, playing in front of our home crowd," captain Jon Francisco said. "That really energized us in the OT."
The Reign (9-11-2-1) had been on the road for four consecutive games and eight of their last 10. They went 2-5-3 during that stretch and fell into a tie with the Las Vegas Wranglers for second place in the ECHL's Pacific Division.
After that much travel, coach Karl Taylor said, "we're absolutely exhausted."
"To find a way to win today was very important," he continued. "Those are big points for us right now. With the travel and the schedule we've got going on, that was a real gutty effort by our guys to find a way today."
If Pelech and the crowd were responsible for the winning goal, the top forward line of Tim Kraus, Peter Lenes and Greg Hogeboom got the Reign to overtime in the first place. The trio accounted for all three Reign goals in regulation, including two by Lenes and another by Hogeboom.
Each finished with an assist.
After Victoria (6-13-3-0) drew first blood on Mike Zacharias, on a soft first-period goal by Chad Painchaud, Lenes evened things up with a breakaway strike at 5:36 of the second. Minutes later, Hogeboom took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play by rifling in a slap shot from the faceoff circle at 8:11 for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Another fast-break goal for Lenes, this time off a pinpoint centering pass from behind the net by Hogeboom, put the Reign up 3-1 at 4:22 of the third period.
Then the game got chippy - and Victoria got even.
Olivier Latendresse registered a power-play goal at 7:49 and Olivier Filion buried the equalizer at 14:30. In between were two fights - one between James McEwan and Victoria's Mike Hamilton, the other between Reign forward Chris Curran and Wes Goldie - and neither was a shocker, considering it's the eighth and final meeting this season between the teams.
The game's pace picked up afterward, but the fights also shortened the Reign bench.
"We only had seven forwards on the bench - (Robert) Pearce was getting stitched, we had two in the (penalty) box - so we're short at the end of a long run of games," Taylor said. "I love fights. I love when the guys show emotion like that, but sometimes it's tough when you lose two guys when you're tired and have a short bench."
Fortunately overtime is only four men to a side, and the Reign spent most of the extra period in the offensive zone. It ended when David Walker made the winning pass to Pelech to complete a 2-on-1 rush.
"Even though they came back a little bit, we never let up and we finished the job in overtime," Lenes said. "I think that was big for our team character."