J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
The Reign don't play again until Friday, but the sooner they can forget about Wednesday's clunker the better.
It wasn't so much that they lost to the Alaska Aces, 6-3 in front of 7,268 at Citizens Business Bank Arena. It was that the Reign saved their worst for the game's final period and beat themselves in the process.
Alaska scored four third-period goals to blow open a 2-2 game and send the Reign to only their third regulation loss in March.
"They took the game from us. It was our own fault," center Tim Kraus said.
"We made mistakes, just made soft plays, that they were able to put in the net."
By losing, the Reign missed a chance to climb out of last place in the ever-changing National Conference standings.
With 68 points, the Reign (29-28-3-7) remained in eighth place and trail the Stockton Thunder and Las Vegas Wranglers by a point. The seven teams battling for the final six playoff positions are separated by five points, thanks to a Utah Grizzlies victory over the Bakersfield Condors.
With five games left in the season, there's little time to lose.
"We'll take a day to regroup, figure out what we're going to do on Friday, make the necessary changes and be ready to go," Reign coach Karl Taylor said.
The Reign jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of goals by left wing Geoff Walker and defenseman David Walker.
The Reign failed to convert a 47-second 5-on-3 power play but,10 seconds after it expired, Geoff Walker slid a backhand past goaltender Scott Reid at 7:31 of the first period.
At the 8:45 mark, Tim Kraus made his first impact after missing back-to-back games because of injury. The Reign center won an offensive-zone faceoff in the right circle and tapped the puck back to defenseman Dan Knapp, who then fed David Walker for a one-timer that got through everyone and gave the Reign a 2-0 edge.
The Aces wasted little time coming back.
Defenseman Nick Tuzzolino chased down a puck behind netminder Curtis Darling and passed to a wide-open Curtis Fraser for the goal at 14:25.
Less than four minutes later, Reign defenseman Chad Starling blocked a Judd Blackwater shot in the slot, but the puck angled onto the stick of Tyson Marsh, who buried his sixth goal of the season to make it 2-2 at 18:16.
The score held up until a pair of hustle plays by Gary Nunn in the third period.
Nunn beat Geoff Walker to a loose puck along the boards on the Aces' end, then skated the puck the length of the ice behind the Reign net. Michael Pelech challenged him for the puck, but Nunn found Jason Ryznar with a backhand pass that Ryznar lifted over Darling to make it 3-2 at 9:05.
Nunn did it again at 12:01 by skating two-thirds the length of the ice with the puck and a head of steam and putting a forehand into Darling's chest with the goalie backpedaling in the crease. The goal was the first of Nunn's professional career.
Darling gave Fraser an easy path to his second goal of the game with 6:32 left in the third by leaving the net to play the puck and passing to the Aces forward streaking down the slot.
"I saw him coming down," Darling said of Fraser. "I just didn't get anything on it."
Sean O'Connor's 15th goal of the season made it 5-3 with five minutes to play, but Nick Mazzolini scored into an empty net with 1:09 left to seal the result.
Making his first appearance since March 13, Knapp played alongside David Walker on defense, and exchanged places on injured reserve with Luis Tremblay (lower-body injury).