REIGN PREVIEW – Ontario at San Jose, 3/3

WHO: Ontario Reign (30-19-3-1) at San Jose Barracuda (21-26-1-4)
WHEN: Friday, March 3 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tech CU Arena – San Jose, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign are headed north to visit San Jose for the final time during the 2022-23 regular season Friday night at Tech CU Arena. Each team has recorded three wins in the first six contests of their eight-game season series but Ontario has picked up points from five games, with a 3-1-1-1 record. The Reign have posted points in five of their last seven contests with a record of 4-2-1, while the Barracuda are 3-5-1-1 in their last 10. Ontario is coming off a 3-2 loss to Abbotsford on Wednesday and San Jose dropped their last contest to Coachella Valley in overtime on Monday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario remains in close competition for home ice in the opening round of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, entering Friday’s game in a tie for fourth place in the Pacific Division with the Colorado Eagles, each team sitting one point back of third-place Abbotsford. San Jose on the other hand is fighting for their playoff lives and are currently tied for eighth, remaining five points back of the final postseason spot in the division. Ontario has been a top defensive team in the AHL, entering Friday ranked sixth in the league’s rankings by allowing just 2.77 goals per game. Ontario is also fourth among AHL teams on the penalty kill at 84.2%. The two teams have each totaled exactly 182 shots on goal in their six previous meetings this season.

LAST TIME OUT: Two third period goals gave the Abbotsford Canucks a 3-2 win over the Ontario Reign on Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. Ontario’s goals were both scored in the second period, with Alan Quine and Samuel Helenius finding the back of the net for the Reign. Cal Petersen stopped 17 shots in the contest while holding his team in the game. Ontario had a 32-20 shots-on-goal edge in the contest and netted the lone power play goal of the night in a losing effort.

HELENIUS BACK ON THE BOARD: Samuel Helenius netted his second goal of the 2022-23 season Wednesday night on a fortuitous bounce as his stick snapped in half during a one-timer from the left circle. His opportunity, set up by Lias Andersson, put Ontario in front of Abbotsford late in the second period. Helenius, who scored his first goal of the year on Feb. 15 in San Jose during a two-point night, has been on the scoresheet in four of his last eight outings. In 52 contests this season, the Jarvenpaa, Finland native has 14 points (2-12=14) as well as a plus-6 rating and 50 penalty minutes. The rookie is in his first North American professional season after being selected in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the LA Kings.

SCOUTING THE BARRACUDA: San Jose is fighting for their playoff lives, holding a record of 21-26-1-4 through 52 games. Veteran forward Andrew Agozzino had been the team’s leading scorer for most of the year and currently leads the club with 42 points Just behind him is rookie attacker William Eklund who is up to 41 points in his first pro season. Both have netted 17 goals, while Agozzino has 25 assists and Eklund has 24 helpers. Thomas Bordeleau has found the back of the net a team-high 20 times while totaling 35 points in his own rookie campaign. Defender Derrick Pouliot leads the team’s blueliners with 18 points on two goals and 16 assists. In goal, San Jose has seen three netminders share time in between the pipes in veteran Aaron Dell and rookies Eetu Makiniemi and Strauss Mann. Mann leads the team with a 0.901 save percentage and has also posted a 3.00 goals-against average, but has only appeared in 13 games, while both Makiniemi and Dell have seen action in 22 contests.

INSIDE THE SERIES: The Reign have been led by captain TJ Tynan against the Barracuda, who has a team-leading six points in the previous six contests with a goal and five assists. Forwards Lias Andersson and Taylor Ward have each scored five points in the six meetings, both with two goals and three helpers. Defender Jacob Moverare has also accounted for five points on two goals and three assists, while forward Samuel Helenius has posted an additional five points on a goal and five assists. San Jose’s leader against Ontario is their captain Andrew Agozzino, who has five assists in the six games. In addition, Thomas Bordeleau and Jeffery Viel each have three goals and an assist for four points, and C.J. Suess has also recorded four points on a goal and three helpers.

VILLALTA TAKES CARE OF BUSINESS: With his winning performance last 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 third-lowest number in the AHL among active netminders this season. Villalta is also among the league’s leaders in save percentage, ranking third 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. San Jose (all times Pacific):
Wed., Oct. 26 at San Jose, 2-1 W – Full Recap
Thu., Nov. 10 at San Jose, 3-4 SOL – Full Recap
Wed., Nov. 23 vs. San Jose, 5-1 W – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 6 vs. San Jose, 2-4 L –
Full Recap
Wed., Feb. 15 at San Jose, 3-4 OTL – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 24 vs. San Jose, 6-1 W – Full Recap
Fri., Mar. 3 at San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 8 vs. San Jose, 7:00 p.m.


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