WHO: Ontario Reign (31-26-4-1) vs. Abbotsford Canucks (35-22-2-4)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #63
WHEN: Friday, March 24 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Center – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign host the Abbotsford Canucks in Southern California at Toyota Arena on Friday night, the first of two games between the teams in a span of three days. While Ontario is coming off a 4-0 shutout win in Tucson on Wednesday, the Reign have fallen short to the Canucks in each of their last three head-to-head contests. After sweeping Ontario in a two game series north of the border last weekend, Abbotsford lost to Bakersfield by a 3-1 score in their most recent contest on Wednesday. The Canucks have won three of the four meetings between the two teams during the 2022-23 regular season, with four still remaining on the schedule.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While Abbotsford has used its recent success to open up a nine-point edge on Ontario in the Pacific Division standings, the Canucks are deadlocked in a battle against Colorado for third place with each team holding 76 points. The Reign are aiming to stay above sixth-place Bakersfield, who is just three points back of Ontario. While Abbotsford can punch their ticket to the Calder Cup Playoffs tonight, the Reign’s magic number to clinch a postseason spot is 10 points. Ontario’s special teams have both been some of the AHL’s best this season, including an 84.3% mark on the penalty kill that’s third in the league and a home power play conversion rate of 26.3% which is second highest.
LAST TIME OUT: Cal Petersen stopped 19 shots to record the ninth shutout of his AHL career Wednesday night as the Ontario Reign defeated the Tucson Roadrunners by a 4-0 score and earn a split of the final series of the 2022-23 season between the two teams. Ontario got goals from four different skaters in the win, including Tobias Bjornfot, Tyler Madden, Aidan Dudas and Martin Chromiak. Alex Turcotte returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 15 and recorded an assist, Nate Schnarr also earned his first point as a member of the Reign, assisting on Chromiak’s third period goal.
TOP NOTCH TOBY: Known for his excellent defensive play, Tobias Bjornfot has gotten more involved offensively of late, scoring three times in Ontario’s last five contests. Bjornfot has more than doubled his season-long goal total in the process, now with five tallies. The Upplands Vasby, Sweden native scored his first power play goal of the season in Wednesday’s win, which stood up as his second game-winning tally of the year. Bjornfot has also contributed five assists this season while appearing in 44 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 set a new career-high of 45 AHL games played in a season with the Reign, which tops the 44 he suited up for 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 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 recall to Vancouver in mid-February. Wolanin also reached an agreement with Vancouver on a two-year contract extension Thursday. Linus Karlsson is the team’s active leader in both goals and points, posting 20 tallies and 25 assists for 45 points in 63 games. Justin Dowling is just behind him with 42 points on 11 goals and 31 assists, while Tristen Nielsen has 38 points on 14 goals and 24 helpers. Arturs Silovs has seen the most action in between the pipes, going 23-10-5 in 39 appearances this season while leading the club with a 2.47 goals-against average. Silovs has only started once against Ontario in the four meetings between the teams, allowing two goals in a winning decision.
INSIDE THE SERIES: TJ Tynan is the Reign’s top scorer against Abbotsford after four head-to-head contests with six points. Four of those were earned on opening night when the team’s captain led the way with a goal and three assists in an 8-2 blowout win to open the 2022-23 season. After scoring twice in the most recent meeting of the teams on Saturday, Lias Andersson has now totaled four points in the series with three goals and an assist. Both Helge Grans and Alan Quine have three points against the Canucks this season, each with a goal and two assists. Abbotsford has seen Nils Höglander record four points in the four matchups on three goals and one assist, while Marc Gatcomb has matched his scoring total with a goal and three helpers. Spencer Martin has won both of his starts in net for the Canucks in the series, making 30 saves in each victory.
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 58 of their last 65 penalties, a rate of 89%. That run has vaulted them into third in the AHL’s season-long penalty killing rankings at 84.3%, ranking just behind league leader Milwaukee at 84.9%. 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.
PETERSEN SHUTS THE DOOR: Cal Petersen earned his second shutout of the season with Wednesday’s 4-0 win, stopping 19 shots to improve his AHL record to 14-15-4 in 33 appearances with the Reign. He’s been a workhorse for Ontario in the crease since December, and will appear in his 150th career AHL game when he next steps on the ice. The netminder now has nine shutouts during his time with the Reign, setting his career-high with four clean slates as a rookie during the 2017-18 campaign.
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, 2-3 L – Full Recap
Fri., Mar. 17 at Abbotsford, 0-4 L – Full Recap
Sat., Mar. 18 at Abbotsford, 2-5 L – Full Recap
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.