WHO: Ontario Reign (30-18-2-1) vs. San Diego Gulls (14-38-1-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #52
WHEN: Sunday, February 26 @ 3:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign wrap up their season series with the rival San Diego Gulls on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena. Ontario is coming off a 6-1 victory over the San Jose Barracuda on Friday night which gave them four wins in their last five contests and a 7-1-1 record since Feb. 4. The Reign have won six of their seven matchups against the Gulls during 2022-23, including a 4-3 overtime victory in the most recent contest at Pechanga Arena on Feb. 18. Ontario has outscored San Diego 27-14 in the series and produced a 31.6% power play success rate with six goals in 19 opportunities. The Reign have also killed 20 of 22 Gulls’ man-advantages (90.9%).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is currently in a tightly-contested section of the Pacific Division standings that is battling for home ice in the opening round of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. Currently the Reign sit in fifth place with 63 points, but they’re just a single point behind both the Abbotsford Canucks and Colorado Eagles for third, with each team having secured 64 points. The Gulls are on the outside looking in at the postseason, sitting at the bottom of the standings with 29 points from 53 games. Ontario ranks sixth in the league’s defensive rankings, allowing 2.78 goals per game, and ninth on the offensive side with an average of 3.24 goals scored per contest. The Reign have been led by captain TJ Tynan against the Gulls this season, who has scored a team-high eight points, all of which have come via assists. Four Reign skaters have seven points against San Diego this year, including Lias Andersson (5-2=7), Martin Chromiak (5-2=7), Aidan Dudas (4-3=7) and Tyler Madden (2-5=7). San Diego’s leaders against Ontario are three of their top scorers, Rocco Grimaldi, who has eight points on six goals and two assists, as well as Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Michael Del Zotto with a goal and four assists each.
LAST TIME OUT: 12 skaters registered points and Matt Villalta made 34 saves to send the Ontario Reign past the San Jose Barracuda by a 6-1 final score on Friday night at Toyota Arena. Jacob Moverare also had a big night in the victory, posting a team-high three points with a goal and two assists to tie his AHL career-high. Other skaters that found the back of the net for Ontario included Jordan Spence, Alan Quine, Samuel Fagemo, Tyler Madden and Kim Nousiainen. With the victory, the Reign moved into a tie for third place in the Pacific Division with 63 points on the season.
VILLALTA TAKES CARE OF BUSINESS: With his winning performance on Friday night that included 34 saves on 35 shots, Matt Villalta earned his 11th victory of the year for the Reign. In the process, he lowered his season-long goals-against average to 2.36, which is tied for the fourth-lowest number in the AHL this season. Villalta is also among the league’s leaders in save percentage, ranking fourth with a mark of 0.921 from his 18 appearances. Those numbers are career bests for the 23-year-old who is in his fourth professional season after being selected by the Kings in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego has been led on the offensive end by Rocco Grimaldi, who is up to 52 points in 52 contests on an even 26 goals and 26 assists. Center Benoit-Olivier Groulx has also pitched in with 29 points on 11 goals and 18 helpers while suiting up for 48 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 appearing in all 53 of the Gulls’contests. Glenn Gawdin, who has earned himself playing time in Anaheim this year, is second on the team with 12 goals and has collected 22 points in 38 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 played against the Reign in the most recent meeting between the teams on Feb. 18 and suffered the loss in overtime.
MOVERARE MAKES IT COUNT: While Jacob Moverare has continued to be one of Ontario’s most reliable defenders this season, he’s recently stepped up his offensive game as well. Moverare tied a career-high with three points in Friday’s lopsided win over San Jose, posting his fourth goal of the season and two assists. In 41 games with Ontario during his third professional season within the LA Kings’ system, Moverare has 17 points (4-13=17), which is also a new career-best. The Ostersund, Sweden native has now played 97 games during his AHL career, all coming with Ontario.
CHROMIAK CONTINUES TO PRODUCE: Martin Chromiak found the back of the net for the fourth time in his last seven games Wednesday, scoring his 13th goal of the season in the first period on a rebound that was left in front of the net. He followed that up with a pair of assists in the team’s most recent win over San Jose on Friday, helping on goals by Alan Quine and Jacob Moverare. Chromiak also starred in Ontario’s most recent win over San Diego on Feb. 18, bookending the scoring by netting the opening goal of the game on a breakaway before finishing the contest with his first-career overtime game-winner. The Ilava, Slovakia native now has 25 points in 35 games this season. His goal total ranks third on the team, while his point total is tied for fourth among Reign skaters.
ROAD WARRIORS: With their shootout win in Coachella Valley on Monday, Ontario extended their season-long road unbeaten streak to seven straight games, which dates back to an overtime win in 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 OT to San Jose last Wednesday and defeating the Gulls and Firebirds over the holiday weekend. Overall, the Reign have a 15-9-1-1 record in 26 road games this season while securing 32 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, 4-3 OTW – Full Recap
Sun, Feb. 26 vs. San Diego, 3:00 p.m.