ONTARIO - The Reign wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game to benefit the American Red Cross Inland Empire chapter. The main difference - other than the red numbers on the back and sleeves - were red flames that appeared to emerge from the bottom of the jerseys.
But it wasn't until the Alaska Aces scored twice in the first seven minutes that the Reign showed any fire in their bellies.
Michael Pelech scored twice, Sean O'Connor scored the game- winner, and a pair of late empty-netters gave the Reign a 5-2 win in front of 8,298 at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
"We've been down by a couple goals a lot this season and managed to battle back. I don't think anyone was too worried about it," Pelech said. "I don't know if we play better, but I think we play more desperate when we're behind and that helps out a lot."
Curtis Darling allowed two goals on the Aces' first four shots of the game, both off deflections; Matt Stefanishion and T.J. Fast gave Alaska a 2-0 lead in the first 6:18. Things got worse for the Reign 50 seconds later when a penalty to defenseman Dan Knapp put the Reign at a 5-on-4 disadvantage.
But in a moment of foreshadowing, a successful penalty kill allowed the Reign to regain some momentum.
After the Reign failed to convert a pair of power plays over the next five minutes, Pelech won a faceoff and scored with the teams skating at even strength at 2:53. He jumped on a loose rebound to score his sixth goal of the season, but he wasn't stuck on six for long.
Eight seconds later, the Reign were awarded another offensive- zone faceoff when Eric Boguniecki was whistled for interference. Pelech won the draw, eight more seconds ticked off, and Pelech's stick was ruled the last of several in the crease to push the puck past goaltender Frank Doyle to even the game at 2.
After a scoreless second period, the Reign used an odd-man rush to score the go-ahead goal at 2:13 of the third period. Jon Francisco made the critical play by chasing down a puck in the corner and, without looking, passed to O'Connor streaking down the slot.
The goal held up only because of the Reign's superior penalty kill. The unit weathered a five-minute-long, 5-on-4 disadvantage after defenseman Mike Egener was sent off for spearing, a game misconduct.
An elbowing penalty to Francisco at 12:37 gave the Aces another power play - their seventh of the game - but the Reign made sure that Alaska didn't convert on any.
"We couldn't give up a goal," Reign head coach Karl Taylor said, "and Mike (Egener) better be patting his teammates on the back, because we picked him up by finding a way to get that kill."
"It's tiring," Darling added. "We've got to do the best we can to avoid taking penalties. We probably gave them more opportunities than we should have, and with a dangerous team like that, you're going to pay more often than not."
The Reign then turned a close game into a lopsided result with a pair of empty-net goals.
The Reign, who have won three of four, will host the Idaho Steelheads today at 5 in their third game in as many days.