WHO: Ontario Reign (33-27-4-1) vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds (43-14-4-2)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #66
WHEN: Friday, March 31 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign host the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Friday night to close out the month of March at Toyota Arena. The two teams have split their previous six meetings during the Firebirds’ inaugural season, with Ontario earning a 3-2-1 record. Most recently the Reign fell to Colorado on Wednesday with a 4-2 result, while Coachella Valley defeated Bakersfield at home 5-1.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Coachella Valley is still in contention for the top spot in the Pacific Division, currently trailing first place Calgary by four points with two games in hand and seven contests remaining in the regular season. The Firebirds need a single point to clinch the No. 2 position in the standings. The Reign are eight points back of both Colorado and Abbotsford for things and hold fifth place with a five-point edge on sixth place Bakersfield. Ontario’s magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to five points. The Reign’s special teams have both been some of the AHL’s best this season, including an 84.4% mark on the penalty kill that’s tied for third in the league and a home power play conversion rate of 25.28% which is second highest.
LAST TIME OUT: Two goals in the third period lifted the Colorado Eagles past the Ontario Reign by a score of 4-2 on Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. Ontario’s tallies came from Lias Andersson and Cameron Gaunce, while Cole Krygier picked up an assist in the contest to earn his first professional point in his second game with the Reign. Cal Petersen suffered the loss for Ontario despite stopping 22 shots.
GOAL-SCORING GAUNCE: After going without a goal in his first 43 games of the season, Cameron Gaunce has now scored twice in Ontario’s last three contests. The defender netted his first of the year last Friday in a win over Abbotsford before scoring the Reign’s second goal Wednesday night in an eventual loss to Colorado. His most recent tally was the 50th AHL strike of his career. Gaunce is now two points away from hitting the 300-mark during his time in the AHL which has spanned 777 games.
SCOUTING THE FIREBIRDS: The AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, the Firebirds have been one of the strongest teams in the Pacific Division during their first season in the league. Forward Max McCormick is leading the team in overall scoring with 62 points on 25 goals and 37 assists. Right behind him is Kole Lind, who has a club-high 27 goals and 30 assists for 57 points. Coachella Valley is missing veteran Andrew Poturalski, who posted 42 points on 11 goals and 31 assists in 38 games prior to an injury sustained on Jan. 26. Defender Brogan Rafferty has the most points among Firebirds’ blueliners with 49 on nine goals and 40 helpers. In net, Joey Daccord has claimed the majority of the minutes while appearing in 35 games and posting a 2.38 goals-against average and a 25-6-3 record this season.
INSIDE THE SERIES: TJ Tynan is the Reign’s top scorer against the Firebirds this season, scoring eight points on a goal and seven assists in the six meetings. Martin Chromiak has also found success against Coachella Valley, scoring a team-high five goals in the series, including his first AHL hat trick on Jan. 21. Aidan Dudas has six points in the six contests, tied with Chromiak for second most on the roster, with two goals and four assists. Cal Petersen has played every minute of the series in net for the Reign, over 370 of them, while posting a 3-2-1 record. Max McCormick has totaled 10 points against Ontario this season on five goals and five assists, including a four-point outing (3-1=4) in a win on Jan. 21. Tye Kartye has netted six goals in the six games for the Firebirds, while Kole Lind has six points on three goals and three assists. While Joey Daccord has been the team’s top goaltender this season, Christopher Gibson has the better numbers against the Reign with a 2.50 goals-against average and a 0.926 save percentage in three outings.
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 66 of their last 74 penalties, a rate of 89%. That run has vaulted them into third in the AHL’s season-long penalty killing rankings at 84.4%, ranking just behind league leader Chicago at 84.8%. The Reign’s home killing percentage of 86.4% is also the best in the league, with Ontario allowing just 17 man-advantage goals despite being shorthanded 125 times.
KRYGIER POSTS FIRST POINT: With an assist on Cameron Gaunce’s second period goal Wednesday night, Cole Krygier registered his first career professional point. The defender made his debut with the Reign on Sunday in the team’s win over Abbotsford. Krygier turned pro after recently completing his collegiate career with Michigan State University where he spent the past five seasons and signed a two-year entry level contract with the LA Kings last week that begins in the 2023-24 season. LA acquired Krygier’s NHL rights in a trade with the Florida Panthers in exchange for future considerations after the blueliner registered 16 points (10-6=16) in 38 games with the Spartans this season while serving as the school’s alternate captain.
2022-23 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Coachella Valley (all times Pacific):
Wed., Dec. 28 at Coachella Valley, 6-7 L – Full Recap
Sun., Jan. 8 at Coachella Valley, 3-2 SOW – Full Recap
Sat., Jan. 21 vs. Coachella Valley, 4-5 OTL – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 17 vs. Coachella Valley, 4-2 W – Full Recap
Mon., Feb. 20 at Coachella Valley, 3:00 p.m. – Full Recap
Wed., Feb. 22 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m. – Full Recap
Fri., Mar. 31 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 12 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.