ONTARIO — The Ontario Reign caught fire on the ice Friday night, scorching the San Francisco Bulls 7-0 as captain Derek Couture notched a hat trick.
Losing – by a lot – seems to be a recurring theme for the Bulls the last several times they’ve fallen to the Reign. San Francisco has lost by an unlucky 7 goals in three of their last four encounters.
What exactly is it that the Reign have managed to do so perfectly?
Reign goalie Chris Carrozzi, who racked his second shutout of the season, wasn’t exactly sure, but did say:
“Maybe it’s the killer instinct that we put into our games. We try to push the pace, try to dominate the away games and at the home games we dominate.”
The Bulls — like in their last visit to Ontario on Nov. 14 when they lost 8-1 — left Citizens Business Bank Arena without commenting.
Reign head coach Jason Christie told SFBay his team played strong from the moment their skates slid onto the ice:
“I thought we came out hard. I thought we took pressure to them though we didn’t capitalize.”
A slow-paced opening period gave way to an action-packed middle frame when Reign defenseman Paul Mara swept home a power play goal at 3:49 that Bulls goalie Taylor Nelson didn’t even come close to stopping.
Ontario’s next two goals came a disillusioning 31 seconds apart. At 13:11, center C.J. Stretch passed the puck to forward Kyle Kraemer, who fired it past Nelson into the net. Then, at 13:42, right wing Dan DaSilva scored his tenth goal of the season. Couture, who assisted, described the goal that put his team up 3-0:
“It was a great play. Dan hit (Colton) Yellow (Horn) who found me in the slot for the one-timer.”
The Bulls managed only three shots in the second period, all turned away by Carrozzi. Ontario stretched their lead to 4-0 at 18:30 thanks to a power play tally by Couture from in front of the left circle.
An overpowered Nelson in the Bulls’ goal got little defensive help from his teammates. In the final period, Reign forward Jason Beeman scored quickly at 2:24 from a difficult angle from the left.
The Reign’s next two goals came on power plays, both by Couture shooting from the left. Both Couture goals were assisted by defensemen Chris Huxley and Vincent LoVerde. Of this coincidence, or not, the hat trick man said:
“I’m surprised they didn’t adjust after the first power play. The second power play was an exact replica. I’m surprised but I guess I’m glad they didn’t.”
The Bulls took out their frustrations on the Reign and racked up 26 penalty minutes in the third.
Many of the 5,513 spirited fans sounded off their now-familiar “you suck” chants a couple of times in the final period. Nothing the Bulls hadn’t heard before. Ontario fans later gave their players a standing ovation.
Carrozzi, who stopped all 21 shots by the Bulls, said he was able to see the puck the entire time, thanks to his teammates defensive effort. In one play in the post, he said:
“I was lucky. If I was a (Bulls) player, I’d be pretty mad not to score.”
Still, Christie remained careful not to underestimate the Bulls’ potential. He told SFBay:
“There were two good teams out there in the battle. The puck was going our way tonight.”
The 10-15-1-2 Bulls — now in third place of the Pacific Division — face the division-leading Reign (17-6-1-0) again in a home-and-home next weekend, the first at the Cow Palace on Friday.