Kurtis MacDermid scored in the third period to put the Ontario Reign (39-16-4-1) within one goal, but the Stockton Heat (28-27-2-2) scored in the dying seconds of the frame to hand the Reign a 4-2 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 9,491 at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday night.
Jonny Brodzinski recorded his sixth point within the last five games with a goal in the second period.
“We had every opportunity to score [on the power play] and we didn’t,” said Head Coach Mike Stothers following the loss. “The game comes down to one goal.”
The Reign found themselves down 2-0 in the first period after Pat Sieloff roofed the puck past netminder Peter Budaj at 9:05 to put the Heat on the board. Hunter Shinkaruk followed just 59 seconds later weaving past defenders to extend the lead by two. Stockton continued to test Budaj in the opening frame, scattering seven shots while Ontario tacked on 12.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Michael Mersch said regarding the sluggish first period starts. “I think we need to sit down as a team and talk about it … maybe if we focus on practice a little bit more, maybe it’ll help us have a better start.”
The Heat continued to dictate the pace in the middle stanza, and found the back of the net yet again when Drew Shore scored his ninth goal of the season at 5:13.
The Reign quickly built momentum as Brett Sutter found Brodzinski who squeaked the puck past goaltender Kevin Poulin at 5:20. Ontario continued to tally more shots on goal, but could not find another way behind Poulin.
In the third period, MacDermid put the Reign within one launching a shot past Poulin from the point. Ontario tried to find the equalizer, but fell short as Derek Grant scored an empty-netter at 19:53 to seal the victory for Stockton.
Ontario fired 37 shots on Poulin, and went 0-for-3 on the power play. Budaj took the loss with 23 saves.