WHO: Ontario Reign (21-15-1-1) at San Diego Gulls (12-30-0-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #39
WHEN: Saturday, January 28 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Pechanga Arena – San Diego, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: After an improbable come-from-behind overtime win in Calgary on Wednesday, the Ontario Reign return to Southern California for two games this weekend, beginning Saturday night in San Diego against their rivals, the Gulls. Ontario holds fifth place in the AHL’s Pacific Division with 44 points, while San Diego is at the bottom of the standings with 24 points from its first 42 games. The Reign have secured four wins in their first five meetings with the Gulls this season, most recently earning a sweep of a two-game home-and-home set with wins by scores of 3-1 and 5-2 on Jan. 13-14.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Despite an uptick in their recent offensive output, Ontario remains a defensive-oriented team and ranks eighth in the league by allowing 2.84 goals per game. The Reign have also had success on the penalty kill this season, posting an 82.1% success rate when down a man which is 10th in the AHL. San Diego is just behind Ontario in the PK category, ranking 11th in the league. Aidan Dudas leads the Reign with six points in the five matchups with the Gulls this season on four goals and two assists, while Martin Chromiak has four points in three games (2-2=4) and Jordan Spence has added four assists.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign scored twice in the final six minutes to force overtime and defeated the Calgary Wranglers for the first time 33 seconds into the extra session on Lias Andersson’s second goal of the night Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Andersson, who also had the equalizer on the power play with 2:11 to play in the third, continued a recent hot stretch that has now seen him score eight goals in his last eight games. Austin Wagner also found the back of the net for the second straight day with a shorthanded strike and captain TJ Tynan added two assists in the victory.
TYNAN’S TAKEOVER: January has been the best month of the season for Reign captain TJ Tynan, who is leading in the AHL with 18 points in the team’s 11 games since the calendar flipped to 2023. Dating back to the team’s trip to Colorado last week, Tynan has netted or helped set up nine out of Ontario’s last 11 goals, including a goal and eight assists. The Orland Park, Illinois native tied a career-high with four assists in last Saturday’s overtime loss to Coachella Valley before posting back-to-back two point efforts on Tuesday and Wednesday in Calgary with a goal and three assists. In addition to leading the Reign in scoring with 46 points, Tynan ranks third on the AHL’s scoring leaderboard, second in the league in assists (40), first in power play assists (21) and second in power play points (23).
SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego has been led on the offensive end by Rocco Grimaldi, who is up to 40 points in 41 contests on 16 goals and 24 assists. Center Benoit-Olivier Groulx has also pitched in with 26 points on 11 goals and 15 helpers while suiting up for all 42 of the team’s games. Defender Nikolas Brouillard has remained heavily involved on the offensive end and is second on the club with 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists) while also appearing in all the Gulls’ contests. Glenn Gawdin, who has earned himself playing time in Anaheim this year as well, is tied for second on the team with 11 goals and has collected 17 points in 27 outings. Lukas Dostal has been the team’s rock in net, posting a 2.91 goals-against average and a 0.914 save percentage in 29 appearances.
FRESH FACES JOIN ONTARIO’S ROSTER: Ontario’s roster received four additions Friday, including two familiar faces who were recalled from ECHL-Greenville in Tyler Inamoto and Brett Kemp, as well as two others from the ECHL in Jack Becker and Hank Crone. Inamoto has been valuable for the Swamp Rabbits, appearing in 26 games on the back end, while Kemp has posted 19 points in 20 games at the ECHL level on nine goals and 10 assists. Becker and Crone are both in their rookie professional seasons after completing careers in the NCAA. With the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, Becker has 27 points in 38 games (9-19=27) in addition to a +14 rating. Crone has also impressed as a rookie with the Allen Americans and is fourth in the ECHL with 48 points (20-28=48) in 37 games.
LIAS STAYS HOT: Lias Andersson took matters into his own hands Wednesday, scoring a game-tying power play goal with 2:11 remaining in the third period before adding a game-winning strike 33 seconds into overtime to give Ontario its first-ever victory over Calgary. It was the fourth time this season that Andersson has recorded two goals in a game, and the seventh time he’s had multiple tallies in his AHL career. The Smogen, Sweden native has scored eight times in his last eight games and is second on the team in scoring with 30 points (17-13=30) in 33 contests. Andersson is also on a six-game point streak, his longest run of the 2022-23 season which has seen him net five goals and add two assists. The former first-round NHL Draft selection has already totaled a career-best in scoring this season, with his previous high mark coming in 2018-19 when he earned 26 total points split between the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack. Andersson is averaging over a point per game from the Reign’s first 11 contests in January with eight goals and five assists and leads the team with eight power play goals this season.
SUPERIOR SPENCE: Jordan Spence has continued to be a difference-maker for Ontario on defense and has posted assists in three straight contests over the last week to increase his season total to 26 helpers which ranks second on the roster. 16 of the second-year blueliner’s helpers have come via the power play, which is fourth-most in the AHL this year. Among all league defenders, Spence ranks sixth in scoring with 28 points (2-26=28), third in assists and first with 115 shots on net. The Sydney, Australia native has also suited up for three games with the LA Kings this season, adding to his 27 career games at the NHL level with the club that selected him in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Draft.