While the Manchester Monarchs’ first round Calder Cup Playoffs series against the Portland Pirates has drawn its share of attention over the last week, the Ontario Reign have an enormous playoff game at Citizens Business Bank Arena tonight against the Colorado Eagles.
The Reign, which finished in second place in the Pacific Division with a 96-point ECHL season, won Game 6 at home Monday night to force tonight’s Game 7, which will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Ontario. For all their regular season success – the Reign were Pacific Division champions in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – Ontario has qualified for the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs only once and has never advanced to the Western Conference Championship.
There are several interesting names for Kings (and Winnipeg Jets) fans who will factor into tonight’s Game 7. Forwards Maxim Kitsyn (57 regular season GP; 26-17=43) and Gasper Kopitar (41 GP; 11-14=25), and defenseman Alex Roach (60 GP; 2-14=16) are familiar names, with Kitsyn and Roach under contract with Los Angeles through 2016. Last year, Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson appeared in 28 games with Ontario before he joined AHL-St. John’s for a run to the Calder Cup Final; the 25-year-old went 21-10-5 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .914 save percentage with the Jets this season. Winnipeg prospect Jussi Olkinuora, a former University of Denver goaltender, will look to backstop the club to its second second round playoff appearance in club history tonight.
The game is the 25th Game 7 in ECHL history. Ontario lost a Game 7 in the first round to Stockton in 2009, and Colorado, which plays out of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO, just south of Fort Collins, has never played a Game 7. Home teams are 16-8 in Game 7s in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, with four games having gone to overtime.
Because Ontario will become the Kings’ AHL affiliate next year, this is the last ECHL playoff run by the Reign. Yesterday, the league announced its 2015-16 schedule, and Manchester, which will become Los Angeles’ ECHL affiliate next season, will open up at home against the Brampton Beast on October 16 at Verizon Wireless Arena.
And if you see Kings Special Assistant to the General Manager Jack Ferreira at the game tonight, ask him about The Dark Knight, one of Ontario’s two mascots.