The Ontario Reign (39-18-4-1) pulled the score within one midway through the third period, but fell to the Stockton Heat (29-28-2-2), 3-2, Friday night at Stockton Arena.
The Reign kicked off the scoring as forward Michael Mersch buried a rebound off a Sean Backman shot of his team-leading 22nd goal of the season at 11:19 of the first period. Moments later, the Heat retaliated as forward Garnet Hathaway completed a fancy passing play to tip a shot over the glove of Reign netminder Peter Budaj (30 saves) at 13:00.
In the second period, the Reign penalty kill took center stage as they prevented two lengthy 5-on-3 Heat power plays (1:40 and a full two-minute advantage) and a four-minute power play with forward Andrew Crescenzi in the penalty box. Ironically, the Heat cracked the Reign defense shorthanded as forward Turner Elson buried his 13th goal of the season at 10:53.
Heat defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon made it 3-1 midway through the third period snapping a shot over the glove of Budaj at 8:29. Pushing for a comeback, the Reign pulled back within one with an unassisted shorthanded goal from forward Justin Auger at 11:55. Heat goaltender Nick Schneider (31 saves) denied the remaining third-period chances for his first professional win.
The Reign finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play while the Heat went 0-for-7.