WHO: Ontario Reign (33-29-5-1) at Abbotsford Canucks (38-23-3-4)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #69
WHEN: Saturday, April 8 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Abbotsford Centre – Abbotsford, BC
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: With their playoff future now secure, the Ontario Reign aim to get even in the final game of their season series against the Abbotsford Canucks on Saturday night at the Abbotsford Centre. The matchup will be the seventh time that the two teams have met in the past six weeks, with the Canucks securing wins in four of those previous six contests. Despite falling in overtime in the series opener on Friday, Ontario was able to clinch a spot in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. Before that, the Reign took the two prior meetings between the two teams two weeks ago at Toyota Arena with 4-1 and 3-2 wins on Mar. 24 and 26. Since that series, the Canucks have won each of their last three outings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Abbotsford also has wrapped up its spot in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs and is currently one point behind the Colorado Eagles for third place in the Pacific Division. The Reign are currently in a tie with Bakersfield for fifth place. Each team has four games remaining on the schedule and remains four points ahead of the seventh-place Tucson Roadrunners, who currently have hold of the final postseason spot in the division. 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 ranks fourth in the league and a power play conversion rate of 21.2% which is eighth best.
LAST TIME OUT: Cole Krygier and Alex Laferriere each scored their first professional goals in the third period for the Ontario Reign, but the team was unable to hold on to a late lead and suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Abbotsford Canucks in the first game of a weekend series at the Abbotsford Centre on Friday night. Lias Andersson also had a goal and an assist for the Reign in a losing effort, while TJ Tynan posted a pair of assists.
PLAYOFF FATE SECURED: The Reign officially qualified for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs Friday night by virtue of their overtime loss in Abbotsford and a San Jose loss to Colorado. With 72 points, Ontario became the sixth team in the Pacific Division and the 13th team in the AHL to secure the right to compete for the Calder Cup. The 2023 postseason appearance marks Ontario’s second consecutive trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs and fourth AHL postseason berth. It is the first time the Reign have reached the playoffs in back-to-back years since qualifying in the first three years of their AHL existence (2015-18). 15 players from last year’s Reign playoff roster are still with the team, eight of them were making their postseason debuts. Ontario’s first round opponent and schedule are to be determined and will be announced at a later date.
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. Linus Karlsson is the team’s active leader in both goals and points, posting 23 tallies and 25 assists for 48 points in 68 games. Justin Dowling is just behind him with 45 points on 11 goals and 34 assists, while Tristen Nielsen has 41 points on 14 goals and 27 helpers. Jett Woo, who scored the overtime winner for the Canucks on Friday, has hit the 20-point mark on the blue line this season with seven goals and 13 assists in 65 games. Arturs Silovs has seen the most action in between the pipes of the team’s netminders, going 25-11-5 in 42 appearances this season while leading the club with a 2.49 goals-against average.
INSIDE THE SERIES: TJ Tynan and Lias Andersson are the Reign’s top scorers against Abbotsford after seven head-to-head contests, each with eight points apiece. Four of Tynan’s points 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. Andersson scored twice in Abbotsford last month, posted a two-point effort in Ontario’s overtime win on Mar. 26 and added a goal and an assist on Friday. He now has five goals and three helpers overall in the series. Defender Jacob Moverare has six helpers in the seven games, with five of them coming in the three most recent matchups. Abbotsford has seen Marc Gatcomb record five points in the seven meetings on two goals and three assists, while Linus Karlsson and Arshdeep Bains have each scored three goals and two assists. Nils Höglander has also scored four points in the series with three goals and an assist. Spencer Martin has won two of his three starts in net while allowing just five goals in the process for a goals-against average of 1.65.
LIAS LEADS THE WAY: With goals in back-to-back games, Lias Andersson has continued to pace the Reign in goal scoring and is just one strike shy of 30 for the season with four games remaining. Andersson had a first period power play goal on Sunday and then followed that up with a goal and an assist in Abbotsford on Friday. The Smogen, Sweden native’s 29 tallies are eighth-most among AHL skaters. 13 of them have come on the man advantage which ranks third in the league. Andersson’s 55 points overall are a career-high for the sixth-year pro, who has played 63 games with Ontario and an additional contest for the LA Kings this season. Andersson has also suited up for 110 NHL games in his career with the Kings and New York Rangers, and 155 AHL contests with the Reign and Hartford Wolf Pack.
LAFERRIERE LOOKING THE PART: In his first AHL road game Friday, Alex Laferriere gave the Reign a boost in a big moment. With the game tied in the third period, the rookie was set free on a breakaway during 4-on-4 play and didn’t miss his shot, burying a low wrister just inside the right post for his first professional goal to give Ontario its first lead of the night. A former third round NHL Draft selection by the LA Kings in 2020, Laferriere is playing on an ATO with the Reign and was on the ice for all three goals the team scored Friday, earning a club-high plus-3 rating. Before turning pro, the Chatham, N.J. native had a pair of standout collegiate seasons in the NCAA at Harvard University, recording 73 points in 69 games with 35 goals and 38 assists along with a +26 rating. Laferriere registered 42 points in 34 games in the ECAC this season on an even 21 goals and 21 assists while leading the Crimson in goal scoring and shots on goal (150).
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, 3-2 OTW – Full Recap
Fri., Apr. 7 at Abbotsford, 3-4 OTL – Full Recap
Sat., Apr. 8 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.