Sean Backman scored a goal and tallied two assists while Adrian Kempe netted a goal and grabbed an assist to lead the Ontario Reign (19-8-2-1) past the Stockton Heat (12-15-1-2), 6-1, on Friday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Ontario upended Stockton with strong goaltending from netminder Peter Budaj and goals from six different Reign players. Budaj finished the contest with 23 saves off 24 shots, earning his AHL-leading 18th win of the season.
“I think the whole team played a really good game. We scored a lot of goals and I got a couple of chances,” said Kempe who returned yesterday from the World Junior Championships. “I got a good pass from Army and I just buried it into the back of the net.”
Ontario forward Jonny Brodzinski opened the scoring at 9:59 of the first period, rebounding a shot into the net after forward Nic Dowd stole the puck in the offensive zone.
In the middle stanza, forward Andrew Crescenzi put Ontario up for good, taking a feed from forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas and firing the Reign’s first shorthanded goal of the season at 2:16.
“Sometimes you score. Sometimes you don’t,” said Head Coach Mike Stothers. “We got a couple of power play goals and a couple shorthanded goals so that’s a good thing. It obviously helps having Kempe back. It changes the lines a little bit and gives us a little more offense and some speed.
At 6:04 of the same period, Dowd extended the lead, 3-0, on a pass from Kempe and defenseman Kevin Gravel and beat goaltender Joni Ortio on the 5-on-3 power play. Ortio finished with 29 stops.
Stockton finally got on the board at 17:00 with a goal from forward Derek Shore.
The Reign continued their onslaught in the third frame when forward Derek Army drove up the middle of the ice and set up Kempe who netted a one-timer from the right circle at 4:39. Backman picked up the secondary assist.
Ontario countered once again, as forward Ryan Horvat fired a pass to Backman who blasted the puck past Ortio shorthanded at 12:16.
Defenseman Kevin Gravel closed out the scoring with his own goal on the power play at 15:47 with help from Backman and Dowd.
“I liked what I saw tonight and we got to make sure we carry it over into tomorrow,” said Stothers.