After sweeping through their first two playoff series, Marco Sturm’s Ontario Reign have their backs against the wall in the division finals.

Coachella Valley’s 5-3 win last night gave the Firebirds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

“We didn’t play the game we can play for 60 minutes,” Sturm said after Game 2. “We didn’t play detailed enough and that’s why we were falling behind. It felt like we were chasing all night.”

The Reign head home for the next two games of the series, beginning Sunday evening.

“This is what playoffs is all about,” Sturm continued. “Why not us? We’re going to look forward to playing at home again, see what we can do better and go from there.”

Shut down one, two, or even three lines on the Hershey Bears, and they still can hurt an opponent with their fourth.

The Wolf Pack struggled to stop Hershey’s energetic fourth line of Matt Strome, Henrik Rybinski and Bogdan Trineyev in Game 1 on Thursday night. Rybinski had two assists while Strome added a helper, but it was their constant energy and ability to disrupt the Wolf Pack that was most apparent.

Bears head coach Todd Nelson isn’t particularly fond of attaching the fourth-line moniker to the trio, particularly after a performance like Game 1.

“Every line has their own identity,” Nelson said. “I hate calling them the fourth line because if they’re the best line on the ice, they’re really your first line.”

All three players were with the Bears for their 2023 Calder Cup championship run but did not break into the lineup. This season, however, they have been a key part of Hershey’s excellent forward depth. They combined for 43 points this season (12 goals, 31 assists) and provided a reliable presence for Nelson and the Hershey coaching staff.

Forward Matthew Phillips was out of the lineup for a second consecutive game with what Nelson termed a “lower-body injury that is not totally healed.” With Phillips out, Garrett Roe has slotted in on a line with Ivan Miroshnichenko and Mike Vecchione.

When Phillips is healthy, there will be more lineup decisions to make. But if the Bears are to win another Calder Cup, Nelson is sure of one fact.

“We’re going to need everybody,” he said.

― with files from Patrick Williams


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here