WHO: Ontario Reign (30-20-3-1) at Bakersfield Condors (24-25-2-2)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #55
WHEN: Saturday, March 4 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Mechanics Bank Arena – Bakersfield, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign wraps up a weekend road set Saturday night in Bakersfield against the Condors at Mechanics Bank Arena. The matchup is also the conclusion of an eight-game regular season series between the two Pacific Division foes this year. Ontario has posted a record of 4-3-0 against Bakersfield, and has won three of the last four contests, including a shootout victory in the most recent matchup in Kern County last month on Feb. 10. The Reign are coming off consecutive losses this week at home to Abbotsford on Wednesday before falling on Friday in San Jose. The Condors suffered a 5-1 home loss to Coachella Valley on Friday and were shut out 4-0 in Texas last Saturday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario remains in close competition for home ice in the opening round of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, entering Saturday’s game two points shy of third place in the Pacific, which is occupied by both Abbotsford and Colorado who have each earned 66 standings points this season. Bakersfield on the other hand is fighting for their playoff lives and currently sits in seventh, one point behind Tucson for sixth. Ontario has been a top defensive team in the AHL, entering tonight’s game in sixth in the league’s rankings by allowing just 2.8 goals per contest. Ontario is also fourth among AHL teams on the penalty kill at 84.4%. Power play goals have been few and far between in this year’s head-to-head series, with both Ontario and Bakersfield each scoring just twice on the man-advantage against each other in the previous seven contests.
LAST TIME OUT: The San Jose Barracuda scored three times in the second period on their way to a 4-2 win over the Ontario Reign on Friday night at Tech CU Arena. Both of Ontario’s goals came from Tyler Madden, who scored at even strength in the second and on the power play in the third. Lias Andersson also picked up assists on each of Madden’s goals adding to his career-high point total which now stands at 44 for the season. Matt Villalta got the start in net and made 18 saves during a losing effort for the Reign, who held a 27-22 shots-on-goal advantage in the contest.
MADDEN’S TOP TIER PERFORMANCE: Tyler Madden’s two-goal night Friday was his third multi-goal game of the 2022-23 season. The third-year forward also set a new career-high with 15 tallies on the season and is just three points shy of his previous scoring best of 31 points that he set last year in 48 contests for Ontario. Madden has served an important role for the club, ranking fourth in scoring this season while appearing in 53 of the team’s first 54 contests and taking just 10 penalty minutes. Five of the attacker’s goals have come on the man-advantage, which is also a career best. In 115 career AHL games with the Reign, Madden has scored 64 points on 30 goals and 34 assists.
SCOUTING THE CONDORS: The AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Bakersfield is currently holding the seventh and final playoff position in the Pacific Division with 52 points in the standings. Leading scorer Seth Griffith is up to 44 points this season in 53 games on 11 goals and 33 assists. Behind him, Raphael Lavoie has posted 31 points in 42 games on a team-high 19 goals and 12 assists, while rookie forward Xavier Bourgault is up to 28 points (11-17=28). Prior to a Thursday trade with the Arizona organization, blueliner Michael Kesselring had also been a big offensive contributor for the Condors from the back end with 13 goals and 22 points, but he was dealt in exchange for Cam Dineen who comes to Bakersfield with 35 points to his name with Tucson this season on four goals and 31 assists. In goal, Calvin Pickard leads the team with a 2.80 goals-against average, a 0.913 save percentage and a record of 14-9-2, while Olivier Rodrigue has appeared in 22 games and holds a 2.98 goals-against and a 0.907 save percentage.
INSIDE THE SERIES: The Reign have been led by linemates TJ Tynan and Lias Andersson against the Condors, who each have a team-leading five assists in the previous seven contests this season. Samuel Fagemo has also been a big factor in the series, scoring four times for the Reign. Aidan Dudas (1-2=3) and Jordan Spence (0-3=3) have also posted three points apiece. Bakersfield has five skaters who have all posted three points against Ontario in the season series, including Xavier Bourgault who has scored three times. Defender Alex Peters and forward Noah Philp also have two goals and an assist, while Brad Malone has a goal and two helpers and Seth Griffith pitched in with three assists.
ANDERSSON’S ASSISTS: While Lias Andersson is Ontario’s team leader in goals scored this season with 23 tallies, he’s also dished out quite a few assists of late. The Smogen, Sweden native has posted four helpers in his last four games, including two in Ontario’s most recent outing on Friday in San Jose. While both of those Friday assists were on goals by linemate Tyler Madden, Andersson also had an assist Wednesday night to Samuel Helenius on the rookie’s second goal of the season. Prior to that, the 24-year-old picked up a helper on an empty-net goal by Madden to seal a home win over San Jose on Feb. 24. Andersson’s 21 assists this season rank third-most on the team leaderboard and are a career-high, as are his goal and point totals.
PENALTY KILL PROWESS: As the Reign have gained ground in the standings over the past six weeks, one of the most successful aspects of their game has been the team’s performance on the penalty kill. Dating back to the start of February, Ontario has successfully killed off 38 of its last 41 penalties, a rate of 92.6%. That run has vaulted them into fourth in the AHL’s season-long overall penalty killing rankings at 84.4%, ranking just one percentage point behind league leaders Chicago and Calgary who are at 85.5% for the year. The Reign’s home killing percentage is tied with division rival Henderson for the league lead at 86.7%. Both teams have each allowed the exact same number of home goals on the penalty kill this season, 14, in 105 times shorthanded. Coming into Saturday’s contest in Bakersfield, the Reign have gone four straight games without allowing a power play goal.
2022-23 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Bakersfield (all times Pacific):
Sun., Oct. 16 vs. Bakersfield, 2-3 L – Full Recap
Sat., Oct. 29 vs. Bakersfield, 4-3 W – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 12 at Bakersfield, 1-3 L – Full Recap
Sun., Dec. 4 vs. Bakersfield, 5-2 W – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 17 vs. Bakersfield, 2-0 W – Full Recap
Wed., Jan. 4 at Bakersfield, 2-3 L – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 10 at Bakersfield, 3-2 SOW – Full Recap
Sat., Mar. 4 at Bakersfield, 7:00 p.m.