The Ontario Reign could not find the equalizer late in the third period against their Pacific Division rival Bakersfield Condors and fell a critical battle at Citizens Business Bank Arena Wednesday night, 5-4.
Early on in the first, Bakersfield center Adam Naglich beat an Ontario defender to a loose puck and came in on a breakaway against Kellen Briggs. He deked to his backhand and slid it five-hole and gave the Condors a 1-0 lead.
The Reign battled back and eventually tied things up minute’s later. Ontario’s forward Justin Taylor came streaking down the right boards, and hit teammate Jeff Corey driving to the net for a tip-in tweeners past Bakersfield goalie Peter Hirsch to tie things up at 1-1.
In the second Ontario defenseman Jordan Hill and Bakersfield winger Erick Lizon brought the energy level up when the two dropped the gloves. Both players exchanged some powerful rights before Hill switched to his left and caught Lizon with a couple straight shots and threw him to the ice.
Right off the face-off deep in Ontario’s zone, Bakersfield forward Jean-Marc Beaudoin threw a shot on net. The loose puck eventually ended up on fellow teammate Mark Magnowski’s tape, and Magnowski it past Briggs to give the Condors a 2-1 lead.
The Condors struck again on a power-play midway through the middle frame. Bakersfield defenseman Jean-Francois David blistered a shot from the left boards, which Briggs initially stopped, but teammate Stephane Goulet popped in the rebound for a 3-1 lead.
With 1:16 remaining in the second Aaron Lewadniuk hit teammate Brett O’Malley with a gorgeous cross-ice pass that O’Malley hammered past Hirsch and cut the Ontario deficit to one
In the third, Ontario had trouble breaking out of their zone and Bakersfield forward Carter Smith banged in a rebound off teammate Vyacheslav Trukhno’s shot and gave the Condors a 4-2 lead.
The Reign responded back, scoring less than two minutes later. C.J. Stretch threw the puck in the slot, which got lost amongst skates in front of the Condor net. Taylor swooped in and fired the puck top shelf, trimming the lead to 4-3.
However, Bakersfield regained their two-goal lead moments later. Magnowski fired a shot low far side and the rebound bounced right to Lizon cutting to the crease. He snapped the puck past Briggs, taking a 5-3 lead.
With 2:33 left in the third, Ontario forward Shawn Collymore wristed a shot from the point that was redirected by Lewadniuk top shelf over Hirsch’s glove hand, cutting the lead to 5-4.
In the final seconds of the game, the Reign had a glorious chance to find the equalizer but came up short, losing the first battle against their Pacific rivals this season and an important two points at home. The win pushes Bakersfield four points ahead of Ontario in the Pacific standings.
Hirsch made 28 saves in the game for his fourth win of the season, while Briggs turned aside 21 in the loss.
The Reign will hit the road as they head to Utah to take on the Grizzlies in a two-game series Friday and Saturday night at the Maverik Center. The Condors will remain on the road as they head to Toledo to play the Walleye Friday and Saturday at the Huntington Center.