WHO: Ontario Reign (32-26-4-1) vs. Abbotsford Canucks (35-23-2-4)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #64
WHEN: Sunday, March 26 @ 3:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign and Abbotsford Canucks meet for the fifth time during the month of March on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena, the second game between the teams in a span of three days. Ontario took care of business in the first matchup Friday, claiming their second victory of the season over Abbotsford by a score of 4-1. The Canucks swept Ontario in a two game series north of the border last weekend, but has now lost two straight, including a 3-1 defeat in Bakersfield on Wednesday. Abbotsford has earned wins in three of the five meetings with Ontario during 2022-23, and will host the Reign for the final contests of the series April 7-8.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With just three weeks remaining in the AHL’s regular season, Abbotsford has used its recent success to open up a seven-point edge on the Reign in the Pacific Division standings. The Canucks are deadlocked in a battle against Colorado for third place with each team holding 76 points. Ontario is aiming to stay above sixth-place Bakersfield, who is now five points back of the Reign for fifth. While Abbotsford can punch their ticket to the Calder Cup Playoffs tonight, the Reign’s magic number to clinch a postseason spot is nine points. Ontario’s special teams have both been some of the AHL’s best this season, including an 84.5% mark on the penalty kill that’s fourth in the league and a home power play conversion rate of 25.4% which is second highest.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign returned home and got some revenge on the Abbotsford Canucks Friday night, end a 3-game skid to their rivals from up north with a 4-1 victory at Toyota Arena. Cal Petersen led the way in net with 26 saves, while Andre Lee posted a goal and an assist and Cameron Gaunce adaded insurance in the third with his first goal of the season.
TOP NOTCH TOBY: Known for his excellent defensive play, Tobias Bjornfot has gotten more involved offensively of late, recording points in three straight games and scoring three times in Ontario’s last six 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 over Tucson, which stood up as his second game-winning strike of the year. Bjornfot has also contributed six assists this season while appearing in 45 contests with the Reign and an additional helper in eight NHL games with the LA Kings. The 21-year-old has already suited up for 114 NHL games in his young career, 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 64 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 of the team’s netminders, going 23-11-5 in 40 appearances this season while leading the club with a 2.49 goals-against average. Silovs has only started twice against Ontario in the five meetings between the teams, posting a 1-1-0 record with six goals allowed and a 2.87 GAA.
INSIDE THE SERIES: TJ Tynan is the Reign’s top scorer against Abbotsford after five 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 Abbotsford last Saturday, Lias Andersson has now totaled four points in the series with three goals and an assist. Helge Grans and Alan Quine have both posted a goal and two assists, while Jacob Moverare has three helpers after a earning a pair on Friday. Abbotsford has seen Nils Höglander record four points in the five 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 61 of their last 68 penalties, a rate of 89%. That run has vaulted them into fourth in the AHL’s season-long penalty killing rankings at 84.5%, ranking just behind league leader Chicago at 84.8%. The Reign’s home killing percentage of 86.6% is also the best in the league, with Ontario allowing just 16 man-advantage goals despite being shorthanded 119 times.
PETERSEN SHUTS THE DOOR: Cal Petersen earned his second shutout of the season and ninth during his AHL career in Wednesday’s 4-0 win in Tucson, stopping 19 shots to give Ontario a victory. Petersen then turned aside 26 of 27 shots that came his way Friday to win his second straight contest and improve his AHL record to 15-15-4 in 34 appearances with the Reign. The Waterloo, Iowa native has been a workhorse for Ontario in the crease since December. Friday’s contest was the 150th of his AHL career, all of which have been played in a Reign jersey.
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, 4-1 W – Full Recap
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.