REIGN PREVIEW – Ontario vs. Colorado, 4/2

WHO: Ontario Reign (33-28-4-1) vs. Colorado Eagles (35-21-7-3)
WHEN: Sunday, April 2 @ 3:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign battle the Colorado Eagles at Toyota Arena on Sunday afternoon, closing out the 2022-23 season series between the two teams. The Reign are looking for their fifth win in eight contests against Colorado, which would be their second-highest winning percentage against a Pacific Division opponent behind San Diego. Most recently Ontario fell to Coachella Valley on Friday by a score of 4-0, while Colorado had a similar fate against the Firebirds on Saturday, losing 3-2 in overtime. The Reign and Eagles faced each other earlier this week on Wednesday, with Colorado earning a 4-2 decision at Toyota Arena.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Colorado has wrapped up its spot in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs and is currently one point behind the Abbotsford Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division. The Reign are still looking to solidify their playoff berth, currently holding fifth place with a single point edge on Bakersfield in the standings with six games remaining. Ontario’s magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to three points. Colorado is one of the best defensive teams in the AHL, allowing just 2.7 goals per contest which is the fourth-lowest in the league. The Reign’s specialty is the penalty kill, which is third in the AHL at 84.3%.

LAST TIME OUT: Chris Driedger stopped all 25 shots he faced Friday night to give the Coachella Valley Firebirds a 4-0 shutout win over the Ontario Reign at Toyota Arena. Firebirds captain Max McCormick scored two of the team’s tallies in the victory. Cal Petersen made the start in goal for the Reign and turned out 23 of Coachella Valley’s opportunities, while forward Alex Laferriere made his professional debut for Ontario after signing an ATO earlier in the week.

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 four 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 778 games.

SCOUTING THE EAGLES: The AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the Eagles are led by Charles Hudon who is up to 26 goals and 50 points on the season which both rank first on the team. Hudon’s 17 power play goals are the most in the American Hockey League this season. Forward Callahan Burke is second on the club in scoring with 36 points which consist of 16 goals and 20 helpers. Longtime NHLer Alex Galchenyuk has also made an offensive impact with Colorado, scoring 35 points in just 37 games on 15 goals and 20 assists. Defender Keaton Middleton is among the team’s defensive leaders with 23 points on three goals and 20 assists. In goal, Justus Annunen has appeared in 38 games this season for the Eagles, while veteran Keith Kinkaid came over in a deal at the NHL’s trade deadline and has played in five games since joining Colorado, posting a 2-3-0 record with a 2.59 goals-against average and a 0.915 save percentage. Annunen’s season-long record is 20-9-8 along with a GAA of 2.65 and a 0.913 save percentage.

INSIDE THE SERIES: TJ Tynan is the Reign’s top scorer against the Eagles this season, averaging close to two points per game against his former club with a goal and 12 assists in seven outings along with a +3 rating. Jordan Spence is also over a point per contest against Colorado with two goals and seven assists for nine points. Lias Andersson leads Ontario with six goals and seven penalty minutes against the Eagles this season, while both Taylor Ward (3-3=6) and Alan Quine (2-4=6) have also earned six points. Cal Petersen is 2-1-0 with a 2.74 goals-against average against the Eagles, while Matt Villalta is 2-1-0 in four appearances with a 2.60 GAA and an accompanying 0.922 save percentage. Charles Hudon has posted six points against Ontario this season to lead all Colorado skaters on four goals and two assists. Forwards Callahan Burke and Sampo Ranta have each added five points on two goals and three assists in the series and defenders Nate Clurman and Keaton Middleton lead the club with four assists apiece against the Reign.

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 69 of its last 78 penalties, a rate of 88%. That run has vaulted them into third in the AHL’s season-long penalty killing rankings at 84.3%, ranking just behind league leader Chicago at 85.3%. The Reign’s home killing percentage of 86% is also second-best in the league, with Ontario allowing just 18 man-advantage goals despite being shorthanded 129 times.

LAFERRIERE JOINS THE ROSTER: A former third-round NHL Draft selection by the LA Kings in 2020, forward Alex Laferriere turned pro last week by signing an amateur tryout contract (ATO) with the Reign on Wednesday. The Chatham, N.J. native made his professional debut with Ontario on Friday in the team’s loss to Coachella Valley, posting two shots on goal in the contest. Laferriere had a pair of standout collegiate seasons in the NCAA at Harvard University, posting 73 points in 69 games with 35 goals and 38 assists along with a +26 rating. The 21-year-old registered 42 points on an even 21 goals and 21 assists this year in 34 games, leading the team in goal scoring and shots on goal (150).

2022-23 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Colorado (all times Pacific):
Thu., Nov. 3 at Colorado, 2-0 W – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 5 at Colorado, 3-7 L – Full Recap
Fri., Dec. 2 vs. Colorado, 3-1 W – Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 17 at Colorado, 7-3 W –
Full Recap
Wed., Jan. 18 at Colorado, 2-5 L – Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 31 vs. Colorado, 5-2 W – Full Recap
Wed., Mar. 29 vs. Colorado, 2-4 L – Full Recap
Sun., Apr. 2 vs. Colorado, 3:00 p.m.

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