Francisco Returns, Gives Reign Victory
J.P. Hoornstra, Staff Writer
ONTARIO - Since Jon Francisco went on injured reserve a week ago, Citizens Business Bank Arena added a personal touch to the start of each Reign game, recording each player's face on video for the introduction of the starting lineup.
Wednesday's contest against the Victoria Salmon Kings was Francisco's first game back, and by the end of the night the crowd of 3,566 was just as happy as the smiling, giggling captain introduced in the opening montage.
Francisco had two assists and scored the game-winning goal with 5:49 remaining to spoil the Salmon Kings' (11-8-1-1) first visit to CBBA as the Reign won 3-2.
"I was excited to get back. I always want to contribute as much as I can," said Francisco, who said his stay on injured reserve due to back spasms was a mere "precaution."
Victoria's repeated trips to the penalty box gave the Reign plenty of chances to blow the game away. The Reign had 11 power plays, including a pair of 5-on-3 situations, but converted only one after going the last three games without a single power-play tally.
Appropriately, Francisco's game-winner came 10 seconds after Victoria killed off a four-minute penalty.
"The last three, four games, every team we've played has been really aggressive and we haven't handled that really well," Reign coach Karl Taylor said. "We're going to have a full power play/penalty kill practice (today) and try to figure things out."
The Reign (11-7-1-1) were one second
away from killing the Salmon Kings' first power play when Wes Goldie poked the puck past goaltender Jeff Zatkoff to make it 1-0 at 3:03 of the opening period.
The Reign got even during a 5-on-3 advantage when Maxime Boisclair passed to P.J. Atherton from behind the net for the equalizer at 8:01 of the first period.
A similar play helped the Reign take the lead back 59 seconds into the second period. Francisco fed Jon Rheault, who kicked the puck off his skate and onto his own stick, then flicked it past Victoria goalie Julien Ellis to make it 2-1.
But the Salmon Kings tied it at 8:52 of the second on a deflection by defenseman Dan Yeo.
"It was a big game for us; Victoria's a really good team," Francisco said. "For us to battle through and pull out a win like that is a good sign of our character."
Mike Howe was placed on 3-day injured reserve, and defenseman Dan Knapp was placed on 7-day IR before the game, allowing Francisco to return. Knapp, who was checked into the boards in Sunday's win over the Alaska Aces, is day-to-day.
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