By Lindsay Czarnecki
Reign Insider | @Reign Insider
ONTARIO, Calif. -- Every game and every play is a bit more magnified because unique to the AHL is the five-game first round series.
After splitting the first two games in San Jose, the Reign have home ice the rest of the way, starting tonight at 7 p.m. at Citizens Business Bank Arena. With the shortened series locked at one game apiece, it makes Game 3 all the more important.
“This is probably the biggest game of the series, for sure,” said Jonny Brodzinski, who with Kurtis MacDermid has led the team offensively with two goals apiece. “Being able to clinch a series after this win for either team, it’s obviously one of the biggest ones.”
The top-seeded Reign had the decision to either start on the road for the first two games or host the first two games, and chose the latter, giving them home ice for Game 3 and 4 and 5 if necessary.
“I would have preferred a 4 out of 7, the way it should be,” said head coach Mike Stothers.
Ontario took Game 1 last Friday by a 2-1 score but lost the following day 3-2. This week they’ve been home, practicing and waiting a long wait for the next one.
“They’re all pivotal,” said Stothers. “There’s not much room for error in a 3 out of 5 series. I thought Game 2 was pretty important, too. We’ve got ourselves a series.”
The winner of tonight’s game will have a chance to move on if it wins Game 4 on Friday, also at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 is Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Reign are hoping they can feed off the home crowd, which will be seeing its first take of AHL playoff hockey.
“It really makes getting off to a good start all that much more important,” said defenseman Derek Forbort. “You don’t have the extra two games just in case you need them. I think getting off to a good start and coming out right away and setting the tone is huge in a five-game series.”
The Reign, who finished 9-3-0-0 against the Barracuda in the regular season, will look to get to work early because they know there’s not much time to make up the gap if they don’t.
“It seems like do-or-die comes a lot sooner,” said veteran defenseman Jeff Schultz, who’s seen his fair share of playoff series both at the NHL and AHL level. “Each game is that much more important and now looking at our series now home ice can play that much more in our hands.”