WHO: Ontario Reign (7-2-1) at Bakersfield Condors (6-3-1)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #11
WHEN: Saturday, November 12 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Mechanics Bank Arena – Bakersfield, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign play in Bakersfield for the first time during the 2022-23 season Saturday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Pacific Division standings. The Reign have split their first two contests with Bakersfield this year, falling 3-2 on Oct. 16 before holding on for a 4-3 win two weeks later in the most recent matchup on Oct. 29. The Reign finished with a 5-2-1-0 record in eight contests against the Condors a year ago, including wins in two of the four matchups in Bakersfield.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While currently sitting at the top of the Pacific Division with 15 points, the Reign are looking to extend their lead in the standings as they battle Bakersfield who sits two points back of them. The contest is the second game of a three-in-four stretch for Ontario this week. The Reign are in the top 10 of the AHL in both goals for and against, ranking fourth with 2.50 goals allowed per contest and eighth offensively with 3.6 goals scored. The Condors have held their opponents to 29 shots on goal per game, which is 9th-best in the league.
LAST TIME OUT: Despite producing a tying goal in the final minute of the third period, the Ontario Reign came up short Thursday, falling to the San Jose Barracuda for the first time this season in a shootout by a final score of 4-3. Ontario goals came from forwards Lias Andersson, Tyler Madden and Taylor Ward, who had the equalizer that forced overtime and also contributed an assist. The Reign managed to control the majority of the shot attempts in the contest, outshooting San Jose by a 35-22 margin that included 15 shots in the second period alone.
LEARN FROM LIAS: Reign forward Lias Andersson extended his goal-scoring streak to three games on Thursday in San Jose, netting the first tally of the game in the opening minute of the second period. Andersson has now registered points in a season-high four straight games, building on his breakout performance last week in Colorado where he scored four points in two outings. The Smogen, Sweden native nine points are tied for the third-most on the team. Andersson is in his sixth pro season and recently played in his 100th AHL game, posting 71 points on 32 goals and 39 assists during his time in the league.
SCOUTING THE CONDORS: The AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Bakersfield is continuing to compete at the top of the Pacific Division this season in head coach Colin Chaulk’s first full campaign. After an 80-point season a year ago, forward Seth Griffith is back and has posted 10 points on a goal and nine assists in his first 10 contests. Griffith’s scoring total ranks first on the team behind James Hamblin, who has eight points on three goals and five assists after compiling a 35-point year in 2022-23. Blueliner Michael Kesselring has also had a hot start to the season from the back end, posting seven points on six goals and an assist. In goal, Calvin Pickard has played seven games while Olivier Rodrigue has started three times, including the Condors’ win over Ontario on Oct. 16. Despite seeing less time, Rodrigue’s 2.36 goals-against average and 0.915 save percentage lead the team.
VILLALTA AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME: With a shutout of Colorado last Thursday, goaltender Matt Villalta secured his first clean slate since April 24, 2021, when he turned aside 34 shots to blank the Condors in Bakersfield. The Godfrey, Ont. native has been excellent so far this season, winning all three of his starts while allowing just six total goals to earn a goals-against average of 1.73 and a 0.945 save percentage. Villalta is also coming off a standout season last year when he posted a 28-10-7 record in 46 games with a career-best 2.98 goals-against and a 0.903 save percentage.
KILLER’S INSTINCT: Forward Akil Thomas has hit the back of the net five times this season and is tied with Lias Andersson for the team lead in goal scoring through 10 games. Four of Thomas’ tallies have come via the power play, which is tied for third-most in the AHL. The Scarborough, Ont. native has totaled eight points to begin his third professional season, most recently picking up an assist on Tyler Madden’s second period goal Thursday night in San Jose.
T.J. THE GREAT: After being held off the scoresheet in consecutive games two weeks ago, Reign captain TJ Tynan has compiled a four-game assist streak, with seven total helpers and is now tied for the league’s overall scoring lead with 15 points in 10 games this season. Most recently Tynan picked up an assist against San Jose Thursday on a second period goal by Lias Andersson. The Orland Park, Ill. native leads all league skaters with 14 assists and seven of his helpers have come on the power play, which is tied with teammate Jordan Spence for the most in the AHL.