T.J. Berka, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/Sun Newspaper
ONTARIO - A night after scoring an uncharacteristic seven goals, the Reign scored as many goals Saturday night as uniforms it wore.
Normally that would be a bad thing, but the Reign went through a wardrobe change in the first intermission before defeating the Idaho Steelheads for the second consecutive night, 2-1, in front of 8,395 at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The Reign (29-27-9) beat the Steelheads for the fourth time in a row and assured themselves of at least a tie for the seventh and final playoff spot as the two teams ahead of them - the Utah Grizzlies (one point ahead coming into Saturday) and the Stockton Thunder (two points ahead) - were facing off Saturday in Stockton.
"At this time of the year you have to scratch, claw and play your hardest to assure yourself of two points," Reign coach Karl Taylor said. "We are 11-2-2 in our last 15 games and we are still in a desperate position. It's an insane playoff race right now and we have to keep winning."
To do that, Ontario overcame an unusual issue.
With Saturday being Military Appreciation Night, the Reign wore camouflage jerseys that were a mix of grey, light brown, beige and white. The Steelheads (44-15-5) were wearing their white uniforms. The resulting confusion forced the Reign to switch to dark-blue jerseys after a call was made to ECHL offices.
"Only in the ECHL," Reign defenseman David Walker said. "You wouldn't see this happen in any other league but it was the right call. It was pretty confusing out there and this was too important of a game."
The Reign caught fire once they were dressed in their blues. Ontario scored first with 13:42 left in the second period after taking advantage of a 3-on-2 odd-man rush that resulted in a goal by Michael Pelech.
The rush started in the Reign zone as Jon Rheault belted Idaho's Mark Derlago into the board with a strong crosscheck to gain possession and had the first assist on Pelech's ninth goal of the season.
"When we are physical like that, we are at our best," Taylor said. "We got after it tonight and it really got us going early."
Idaho had a quick retort by scoring on a power-play goal 2:37 later to tie things up. Dustin Friesen scored on a wrist shot off a pass from Tyler Spurgeon.
That lapse was the only one the Reign defense had in man-disadvantage as the Reign killed off eight of Idaho's nine power-play opportunities and held the Steelheads scoreless in the final minute after they pulled their goaltender.
Walker contributed to the game-winner, fittingly on a power play, as his shot from the point was redirected in by Geoff Walker with 8:18 left in the second.
"I did the easy part," David Walker said. "We noticed that they were giving the defensemen open shots from the point, so we told our forwards to get open in front and get a stick out. Geoff did a great job of getting his stick on the puck."
Reign goaltender Mike Zacharias turned away 25 of 26 shots.