Andrew Crescenzi scored a goal and grabbed an assist and Peter Budaj recorded his AHL-leading 28th win to lead the Ontario Reign (30-13-3-1) past the Texas Stars (31-19-3-3), 4-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 9,491 on Friday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The sellout was the sixth consecutive packed arena for the Reign.
“This win was big,” said forward Nic Dowd. “Those points are huge. I think this is a good test because this is a good team. The score was 4-1, but it could’ve easily been 2-1 and Peter played awesome tonight as he always does.”
Through the first 20 minutes, the Stars defense was air tight as netminder Maxime Lagace turned away all 12 shots faced. Ontario’s biggest opportunity came during the 15th minute when Lagace came away with a right pad save to steal Crescenzi of a goal on the Texas man advantage.
In the second frame, the Reign pressed the Stars defense and generated chances, but Lagace continued to shine in the net. The Stars goaltender denied Crescenzi yet again at 3:15 with a sliding save.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas was finally able to break the scoreless tie at 7:46 with help from Jeff Schultz and Crescenzi.
“We try to play strong defensively [against Texas] because we know they’re really talented up front. They’re a fast team so we have to match their speed,” said Crescenzi.
Less than two minutes later, the Stars answered with a goal of their own on the power play thanks to Jason Dickinson. Dickinson retrieved the puck right in front of Budaj and buried it into the net.
The Stars looked to go ahead at 18:31 after Reign Vincent LoVerde hooked forward Brett Ritchie on the breakaway for a penalty shot. Ritchie tried to cut across from right to left, but was denied with a pad save by Budaj. Budaj is now 2-for-2 on penalty shots this season.
Loverde broke the 1-1 tie early in third period when he hammered home his sixth goal of the season.
Moments later, Jonny Brodzinski stretched Ontario’s lead to two, scoring on a feed from defender Christian Ehrhoff. Brodzinski picked up an Ehrhoff rebound and roofed the puck under the crossbar to make it 3-1.
“Overall, I think having Ehrhoff on the back end gives us kind of that quarterback that you’re looking for,” said Head Coach Mike Stothers. “It’s a work in progress, but I don’t think you can measure it by the numbers.”
Crescenzi capped the scoring with an unassisted shorthanded empty-net goal at 16:33. Lagace finished the game with 31 saves. Budaj turned aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
“Each and every game is important. We want to be considered the best so there’s pressure and expectations to win.” said Stothers. “We expect to win every game, and we expect to win the last game. We don’t settle for okay. We want to be great, so you keep pushing. We’ll push again tomorrow to make ourselves better and keep going in the right direction.”