REIGN PREVIEW – Ontario at San Diego, 2/18

WHO: Ontario Reign (27-17-2-1) at San Diego Gulls (14-35-0-0)
WHEN: Saturday, February 18 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Pechanga Arena – San Diego, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign aim to continue their winning ways Saturday when they hit the road to battle the San Diego Gulls at Pechanga Arena this evening. The matchup will be the final meeting of the regular season between the teams in San Diego, and the penultimate matchup of the eight game series which will conclude next Sunday, Feb. 26 in Ontario. The Reign have won five of their five six matchups against the Gulls, including a 7-2 victory in the most recent contest at Pechanga on Jan. 28. Ontario has outscored San Diego 23-11 in the series and produced a 29.4% power play success rate with five goals in 17 opportunities. The Reign have also killed 17 of 19 Gulls’ man-advantages (89.5%).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario’s recent streak of securing points from each of their last five games hasn’t changed its standing at all in the Pacific Division, as it remains four points behind Colorado and five back of Abbotsford in the race for home ice in the opening round of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Gulls are on the outside looking in at the postseason, sitting at the bottom of the standings with 28 points from their first 49 games. Ontario ranks sixth in the league’s defensive rankings, surrendering 2.77 goals per game, and are just outside the top-10 offensively with an average of 3.21 goals scored (11th). The Reign have been led by Aidan Dudas this season against the Gulls, who has scored a team-high seven points in the six previous games with four goals and three assists. Four skaters have scored five points in the series for Ontario, including Lias Andersson (3-2=5), Martin Chromiak (3-2=5), Tyler Madden (2-3=5) and TJ Tynan (0-5=5). San Diego’s leaders against Ontario are their top two scorers, Rocco Grimaldi, who has five points on three goals and two assists, as well as Benoit-Olivier Groulx with a goal and four assists.

LAST TIME OUT: Two goals each from forwards Andre Lee and Samuel Fagemo sent the Ontario Reign past the Coachella Valley Firebirds by a score of 4-2 at Toyota Arena Friday night. It was the first multi-goal game of Lee’s professional career, while both of Fagemo’s tallies came on the power play with assists from TJ Tynan and Jordan Spence. Goaltender Cal Petersen made the start and turned out 20 shots to secure the win for the Reign.

LEE-DING THE WAY: Andre Lee got the Reign going on Friday, scoring twice in the first seven minutes of the first period to stake Ontario to a 2-0 lead in an eventual victory over Coachella Valley. It was the first time Lee has scored twice in a game during his 44 AHL contests with the Reign and the first multi-point performance of any kind during his pro career. The Karlstad, Sweden native was coming off a game in San Jose on Wednesday that saw him record his first assist of the season on a goal by Samuel Helenius. Overall, Lee has totaled four goals and five points in 33 contests for Ontario during 2022-23.

SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego has been led on the offensive end by Rocco Grimaldi, who is up to 46 points in 48 contests on 21 goals and 25 assists. Center Benoit-Olivier Groulx has also pitched in with 29 points on 11 goals and 18 helpers while suiting up for all 49 of the team’s games. Defender Nikolas Brouillard has remained heavily involved on the offensive end and is second on the club with 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) while also appearing in all the Gulls’contests. Glenn Gawdin, who has earned himself playing time in Anaheim this year as well, is second on the team with 12 goals and has collected 21 points in 34 outings. Lukas Dostal has been the team’s rock in net, posting a 2.97 goals-against average and a 0.912 save percentage in 34 appearances, but he was recently recalled by the Ducks. In his absence, San Diego has turned to Olle Eriksson Ek and Gage Alexander, the latter of whom won his first AHL start on Tuesday against Tucson with 29 saves.

HELENIUS GETS HOT: Samuel Helenius was on the scoresheet for the second straight game Friday, assisting on Andre Lee’s second goal in the first period. Helenius netted his first tally of 2022-23 on Wednesday in San Jose, tying the contest during the second period. Three minutes prior, the Jarvenpaa, Finland native assisted on his team’s first goal of the night by Jacob Moverare. Helenius’ first multi-point AHL game got him into double digits in overall scoring and he now has 11 points in 46 games on a goal and 10 helpers. The rookie has posted a +4 rating over his last two outings while playing on a successful forward line with Lee and Nikita Pavlychev.

FANTASTIC FAGEMO: Samuel Fagemo had another big night for Ontario Friday, scoring twice on the power play in each of the final two periods during the win over Coachella Valley, including his second game-winning goal of the season. Fagemo was also clutch on the road last weekend when he scored consecutive game-winning shootout goals during the fourth round of the skill session on back-to-back nights in Bakersfield and Henderson. The Goteborg, Sweden native now has 16 goals on the season, which ranks second-most on the club, and has found the back of the net in five of his last eight AHL games. The third-year pro has totaled 22 points in 33 AHL contests this season, including eight power play goals which are one away from his career-high of nine which he set last year. Fagemo has also scored twice for the LA Kings in nine NHL appearances this season.

ROAD WARRIORS: Despite losing in overtime on Wednesday, Ontario has gone unbeaten in regulation in five consecutive road games for the first time during 2022-23, dating back to an overtime win over Calgary on Jan. 25. After that contest, which included a come from behind performance ending in two straight goals by Lias Andersson, the Reign won three straight away from the Inland Empire in San Diego, Bakersfield and Henderson before falling short in the extra session in San Jose. Overall, the Reign have a 13-9-1-1 record in 24 road games this season while securing 28 points in the standings.

2022-23 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. San Diego (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 21 at San Diego, 2-1 W – Full Recap
Sat., Oct. 22 vs. San Diego, 5-1 W – Full Recap
Sun., Nov. 13 vs. San Diego, 1-4 L – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 13 at San Diego, 3-1 W – Full Recap

Sat., Jan. 14 vs. San Diego, 5-2 W – Full Recap
Sat., Jan. 28 at San Diego, 7-2 W – Full Recap
Sat., Feb. 18 at San Diego, 7:00 p.m.
Sun, Feb. 26 vs. San Diego, 3:00 p.m.

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