Ontario, CA – Forward Adrian Kempe netted two goals to lead the Ontario Reign (2-1-0-0) past the San Jose Barracuda (1-2-0-0), 3-1, on Thursday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. With the win, Ontario takes a 2-1 series lead over San Jose in the best-of-five Pacific Division Semifinals.
“Kempe looked great in the middle,” said Head Coach Mike Stothers after the game. “He gave us real good hits and a real good game. Amadio did a good job for his first American Hockey League game too.”
Leading into tonight’s game, Ontario looked to generate more traffic around San Jose netminder Aaron Dell and they did just that.
“It was a hard fought game,” continued Stothers. “We wanted to establish something being back home. We wanted to be a team that’s hard to play against at home so it was good. It was one game, and now we have to be ready for tomorrow.”
Kempe opened the scoring, chipping in a shot at 7:12 of the first period. Forward Michael Mersch spun in the right circle and fired a shot toward the net that Kempe tapped past Dell. Ontario continued to show good energy and had a chance to take a two-goal lead when they were awarded a penalty shot at 14:36. Forward Nic Dowd took the shot, and tried to deke Dell, before he came up with the pad save. The Reign continued to create a solid physical pace, limiting the Barracuda to four shots while Ontario tacked on 14.
The Reign also possessed the puck much more and forced San Jose to defend the bulk of the opening two periods before the Barracuda surged in the final period of play.
“They’re [San Jose] a challenging team to play,” added Dowd. “Our guys just created more space for themselves by pushing pucks as opposed to slowing down and letting them trap us in the neutral zone.”
The Reign doubled their advantage on Dowd’s power play goal at 2:34 of the middle frame. Barracuda forward Trevor Parkes was given a five-minute penalty for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct just over one minute into the period. Dowd rebounded a shot that bounced off forward Jonny Brodzinski for the marker. Defenseman Derek Forbort was credited with the secondary assist.
In the third period, Kempe ignited the team by hammering his second goal of the night past Dell at 11:27. Moments later, San Jose replaced Dell with Troy Grosenick. Dell finished with 36 saves on 39 shots. At 13:28, Barracuda forward Nikolay Goldobin blasted a shot from the right point through traffic and to deny netminder Peter Budaj of the shutout. The best pressure of the game came in the final three minutes of play for San Jose, but Budaj remained solid in the net to close out the frame.
Budaj finished with 14 saves on 15 chances while Grosenick made zero stops on zero attempts.
“I’m sure both teams are feeling it tonight or maybe more so tomorrow,” said Stothers.