REIGN PREVIEW – Ontario at Tucson, 3/22

WHO: Ontario Reign (30-26-4-1) at Tucson Roadrunners (27-28-6-0)
WHEN: Wednesday, March 22 @ 6:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tucson Convention Center – Tucson, AZ
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign wrap up a four-game road trip Wednesday night with their final matchup of the season against the Tucson Roadrunners at the Tucson Convention Center. After the Roadrunners claimed a 4-1 victory in the series opener Tuesday night, Ontario’s season-long record against Tucson stands at 4-3-0 through the first seven contests. Although the Reign have struggled as of late, they still remain five points ahead of the Roadrunners in the Pacific Division standings.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This week’s series features two teams that are looking to get back on track and close out their playoff berths during the final three weeks of the regular season. While the Reign are still holding fifth place in the standings, they’ve slipped further behind Abbotsford and Colorado and are now aiming to stay above sixth-place Bakersfield who is just three points back of Ontario. The Reign’s magic number to clinch a postseason spot is 14 points. The Roadrunners, on the other hand, have hold of the final spot in the Pacific’s postseason, clinging to the seventh position by three points over San Jose who is on the outside looking in. The Reign’s special teams have both been some of the AHL’s best this season, including an 84.0% mark on the penalty kill that’s fifth in the league and a power play conversion rate of 22.3% which is seventh.

LAST TIME OUT: The Tucson Roadrunners scored three times in the second period on their way to a 4-1 win over the Ontario Reign Tuesday night in the opening contest of a two-game series this week at the Tucson Convention Center. Cal Petersen kept Ontario in the game with 30 saves, while Tobias Bjornfot scored for the Reign in the second period and TJ Tynan posted his league-leading 71st point with an assist.

TOP NOTCH TOBY: Known for his excellent defensive play, Tobias Bjornfot has gotten more involved offensively of late, scoring twice in Ontario’s last four contests. Bjornfot has doubled his season-long goal total to four with the two tallies, which came against Calgary and Tucson. The Upplands Vasby, Sweden native has also contributed five assists this season while appearing in 43 contests with the Reign and an additional helper in eight games with the LA Kings in the NHL. When he steps on the ice for his next game with Ontario, Bjornfot will match his career-high of 44 AHL games played in a season with the Reign, which he last had during the 2019-20 campaign. Since that time, the 21-year-old has also played in 114 NHL games, registering a goal and 14 assists.

SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS: Tucson has been led offensively by forward Michael Carcone, who is second in the AHL with 70 points this season in 54 games on 27 goals and 43 assists. Carcone is also tied for the league lead with 14 power play goals and second with 32 man-advantage points. Forwards Jean-Sebastien Dea and Adam Cracknell are next on the team’s scoring leaderboard, with 45 and 41 points respectively. Dea has 20 goals and 25 assists, while Cracknell has posted 16 goals and 25 helpers in 54 games. Veteran blueliner Steven Kampfer, a newcomer to Tucson, leads the club’s active blueliners with 24 points, including two assists in his first five games with the Roadrunners after registering 22 points with Grand Rapids. Tucson has a new look in net after a recall for Ivan Prosvetov to Arizona and Jon Gillies was traded to the Columbus organization. Tyler Parks has taken over, appearing in 13 contests with a 2.87 goals-against average.

INSIDE THE SERIES: In the seven previous matchups between the Reign and Roadrunners this season, TJ Tynan leads Ontario with nine points on a goal and eight assists. Tyler Madden has also made an impact for the Reign with five points in the series on two goals and three assists, while Lias Andersson has a goal and four helpers. Cal Petersen has a record of 2-2-0 in three outings against the Roadrunners with a 0.943 save percentage, while Matt Villalta is 2-0-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average. Tucson has been led by forwards Michael Carcone and Adam Cracknell, who have posted eight and six points, respectively. Carcone has two goals and six assists, while Cracknell’s registered four goals and two assists. Jean-Sebastien Dea has also chipped in four goals for the Roadrunners against Ontario. Goaltender Tyler Parks has played two contests in the series, allowing just four total goals while earning a 1-1-0 record and a 0.927 save percentage.

PK STANDING OUT: Since the calendar flipped to 2023, one of the most successful aspects of Ontario’s game has been the team’s performance on the penalty kill. Dating back to the start of February, Ontario has successfully killed off 54 of its last 61 penalties, a rate of 88%. That run has vaulted them into fifth in the AHL’s season-long penalty killing rankings at 84%, ranking just behind league leader Milwaukee at 85.1%. The Reign’s home killing percentage of 86.2% is also tied for the best in the league, with Ontario allowing just 16 man-advantage goals despite being shorthanded 116 times.

LIAS LIGHTS THE LAMP: By finding the back of the net in both the second and third periods on Saturday, Lias Andersson added to his career-highs in scoring and reached 25 goals on the season for Ontario. Just eight AHL skaters have recorded more goals than Andersson this season, who is only four back of the league’s leaders. Andersson’s third period strike, which came on the man-advantage, moved him into double-digits for the season with 10 power play goals. The Smogen, Sweden native is just one point shy of reaching 50 on the year, which would make him the seventh player in Ontario’s AHL history to hit that milestone.

2022-23 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Tucson (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 26 vs. Tucson, 1-3 L – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 27 vs. Tucson, 4-3 W – Full Recap
Fri., Dec. 9 at Tucson, 4-3 OTW – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 10 at Tucson, 3-2 OTW –
Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 3 vs. Tucson, 0-2 L – Full Recap
Sat., Feb. 4 vs. Tucson, 5-2 W – Full Recap
Tue., Mar. 21 at Tucson, 1-4 L – Full Recap
Wed., Mar. 22 at Tucson, 6:30 p.m.

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