UPDATE: Tuesday morning, C.J. Stretch was called up to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League on a professional tryout agreement. The Barons are an affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.
You’ll pardon C.J. Stretch if he’d be happy to have his current linemates around for a little while.
Stretch, the Ontario Reign’s nimble 5-foot-11 forward known for his scoring touch, skated Friday night with big bodies D.J. King (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) and Brady Calla (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) as the Reign defeated Stockton 4-2.
“(King) and Calla, they scare a lot of people with their forechecking, their size and their speed,” Stretch said “They’re really good what you’d call grinders. But they also can put pucks in like D.J. did tonight and Calla scored a couple the other night. But we work well together.”
Having a pair of big bodies figures to open up more space for the playmaker Stretch, who is the active scoring leader for the Reign. But, with the transitive nature of professional hockey, who knows how long Stretch will have the linemates. But like most hockey players, he figures you have to roll with the punches.
“Sometimes it’s a little hard, but you just have to battle through it,” Stretch said. “It happens a lot, so you get pretty used to it.”
But having spent most of the past three seasons with the Reign, the 23-year-old Stretch is starting to take on a leadership role when it comes to welcoming newcomers to Ontario. Not only on the ice, but as a native of Irvine, to Southern Calfornia as a whole.
“It’s my second year with coach (Jason) Christie, so when new guys come in, especially forwards, I try to tell them a little bit what to do, what kind of roles – more systems than roles – just show them the ropes,” he said.
“And outside of hockey, I can tell them where LA is, I can tell them where Orange County is, where the beach is. A lot of guys ask me where to go for certain things, especially being third year here.”
MORE NEW FACES: Two more players made their Reign debuts Friday night.
Goaltender Sergey Kostenko stopped 19 shots in his first game for Ontario. Kostenko, a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals last summer, played six games with the Reading Royals, before coming to the Reign from his parent club, the Hershey Bears.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Matt Register made his ECHL debut in Friday’s game with the Reign. Register had spent the past two seasons in the CHL playing for Allen (Texas), Tulsa and Arizona. The 6-foot-2 defenseman had three goals and 17 assists in two seasons in the CHL.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Derek Couture had a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 3:52 remaining in the game, as the Reign won their second straight against the Thunder.
The Reign trailed 2-1 going into the third period, despite controlling most of the action. Stockton scored twice in the final 1:05 of the second period to take the lead.
But Stretch took the puck in his own zone and drove down the right wing on a 2-on-1 attack. King drove through the middle and tapped home the pass from Stretch to tie the game.
Brodie Sheahan scored into an empty net to send the fans home happy.
Defenseman Cameron Burt left the game in the second period after being boarded by Stockton’s Garet Hunt. He was OK after the game, and coach Christie said he’d be good to go this weekend.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE: The Reign hit the road for a 7 p.m. start in Bakersfield. After the stop against the Condors, Ontario will get on the bus for a game in Stockton on Sunday. That game will begin at 4 p.m.
The Reign’s next home game will be March 1, a 7 p.m. start against the Colorado Eagles. The next night, Ontario will once again host the Thunder in a 6 p.m. start. The March 2 game will feature the Reign wearing specialty jerseys to benefit the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley. The first 3,000 fans in attendance will also receive a Dwight King bobblehead.
You can follow in-game updates and other Reign news on Twitter at @ontreigninsider.