REIGN PREVIEW – Ontario vs. Abbotsford, 3/1

WHO: Ontario Reign (30-18-3-1) vs. Abbotsford Canucks (30-19-2-2)
WHEN: Wednesday, March 1 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign open a busy month of March with a matchup against the Abbotsford Canucks Wednesday evening at Toyota Arena. Both teams come into the contest with 30 wins and 64 points in the Pacific Division standings, which is part of a three-way tie for third place along with the Colorado Eagles. Ontario is coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the San Diego Gulls on Sunday, while the Canucks have been idle since a 2-1 shootout win in Colorado on Saturday. The Reign haven’t faced off against Abbotsford since opening night of the 2022-23 season when they took down the Canucks 8-2 in Ontario. Seven of their Reign’s final 20 games will come against Abbotsford.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario comes into Wednesday’s battle as the sixth-ranked defense in the AHL, allowing just 2.77 goals per game. On the other side of the red line is the Canucks, who are eighth in the league offensively by averaging 3.38 tallies per outing. With another power play strike in their only man-advantage chance on Sunday, the Reign moved up to sixth in the league’s power play rankings at 22.7% for the season. Ontario also ranks fifth among AHL teams on the penalty kill at 84.1%. In the only prior meeting of the season between the teams on Oct. 14, Reign captain TJ Tynan led the way with a goal and three assists while Helge Grans scored a goal and an assist and Jordan Spence added three helpers. Ontario also converted on three power play opportunities in that victory.

LAST TIME OUT: A breakaway goal by Rocco Grimaldi in overtime sent the San Diego Gulls past the Ontario Reign by a score of 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena. Ontario entered the third period trailing but tied the game to force the extra session on a power play goal by Samuel Fagemo. Cal Petersen made 28 saves for the Reign in a losing effort, including multiple acrobatic stops during a scoreless second period.

FANTASTIC FAGEMO: Samuel Fagemo netted the lone goal for Ontario during Sunday’s overtime loss to San Diego, tying Lias Andersson for the team lead and matching a career-high with his ninth power play strike. Fagemo is up to 18 goals this season which is second-most on the club, trailing Andersson by five tallies. The Goteborg, Sweden native is on pace to have a chance at surpassing his AHL career-high of 27 goals, which he set in 63 games last season. The third-year pro has totaled 24 points in 38 AHL contests this season and has also scored twice for the LA Kings in nine NHL appearances.

SCOUTING THE CANUCKS: Abbotsford’s top scorer during 2022-23 is former Reign defender Christian Wolanin, who had 55 points in 49 games on six goals and 49 assists before a recent recall to Vancouver. Linus Karlsson is the team’s leading goal scorer with 16 tallies in 53 games. Karlsson has also totaled 22 helpers and has 38 points on the season. Justin Dowling is just behind him with 37 points on 11 goals and 26 assists, while Tristen Nielsen has 35 points on 13 goals and 22 helpers. Defender Wyatt Kalynuk is the team’s top scorer from the blue line with 17 points in 44 games on four goals and 13 assists. Of the team’s current netminders on the roster, Spencer Martin has seen the most action, going 2-4-0 in six appearances. Martin earned a win in the team’s most recent outing with 36 saves and three shootout stops to defeat Colorado.

SUPERIOR SPENCE: Jordan Spence has continued to be a difference-maker for Ontario on defense while helping the team’s offense with six points in his last six games. Spence’s season total of 39 points in 47 games is just short of his AHL numbers a year ago during his rookie campaign when he posted 42 points in 46 contests. Spence’s 35 assists rank second on the roster and 19 of his helpers have come via the power play, which is second among active all active skaters. The blueliner is also third in scoring amongst defensemen is second among all blueliners with 143 shots on goal. Spence 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.

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 seventh-lowest number in the AHL this season. Villalta is also among the league’s leaders in save percentage, ranking fifth with a mark of 0.921 from his 17 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.

ROAD WARRIORS: With their recent shootout win in Coachella Valley last Monday, Ontario extended their season-long road unbeaten in regulation 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 and defeating the Gulls and Firebirds before returning to Ontario for a four-game homestand. 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. Abbotsford (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 14 vs. Abbotsford, 8-2 W – Full Recap
Wed., Mar. 1 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Mar. 17 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Mar. 18 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.

Fri., Mar. 24 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Sun., Mar. 26 vs. Abbotsford, 3:00 p.m.
Fri., Apr. 7 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 8 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.

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