WHO: Ontario Reign (34-29-5-1) at Coachella Valley Firebirds (47-15-5-2)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR SEASON GAME #70
WHEN: Wednesday, April 12 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Acrisure Arena – Palm Desert, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Mixlr – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign begin their final week of the 2022-23 regular season Wednesday night with a matchup in the desert against the Coachella Valley Firebirds at Acrisure Arena. The clash will be the eighth and final meeting between the newest Pacific Division rivals this year, with Ontario holding a record of 3-3-1 from the first seven contests. The Reign have lost the last two outings against the Firebirds, including a 4-0 defeat in the most recent matchup on Mar. 31, but previously had won three of four including a shootout victory in their last visit to Acrisure Arena on Feb. 20.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Both teams are continuing to play for seeding in the upcoming 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. Coachella Valley is currently in second place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the Calgary Wranglers with three games remaining. The Firebirds need a win to keep their hopes of claiming the top spot alive. Ontario is two points ahead of the Bakersfield Condors for fifth place and will either face the Colorado Eagles or Abbotsford Canucks in the opening round of the postseason next week. 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 21.3% which is eighth best.
LAST TIME OUT: Tyler Madden and Aidan Dudas each found the back of the net, and Cal Petersen turned out 27 shots as the Ontario Reign defeated the Abbotsford Canucks by a score of 2-1 on Saturday night at the Abbotsford Centre. Reign captain TJ Tynan was also on the scoresheet, recording an assist for the third consecutive game, while Tyler Inamoto also picked up a helper for his first career AHL point.
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. Ontario now sits at 74 points and will open postseason play next week with a best-of-3 road series as they begin 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 who 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 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 67 points on 28 goals and 39 assists. Right behind him is Kole Lind, who has a club-high 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 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 51 on nine goals and 42 helpers. In net, Joey Daccord has claimed the majority of the minutes while appearing in 37 games and posting a 2.36 goals-against average and a 26-7-3 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 seven 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 431 of them, while posting a 3-3-1 record. Max McCormick has totaled 12 points against Ontario this season on seven goals and five assists, including a four-point outing (3-1=4) on Jan. 21. Tye Kartye has netted seven goals in the seven games for the Firebirds, while Kole Lind has seven points on three goals and four 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 and Chris Driedger recorded a 25-save shutout two weeks ago in his only appearance against Ontario.
THE DUDAS ABIDES: Aidan Dudas scored his third career game-winning goal in the third period Saturday night to give the Reign a 2-1 win on the road in Abbotsford. The strike was his 12th tally of the year and 30th point of the 2022-23 season, both of which are career-highs for Dudas. A former fourth round selection by the LA Kings in the 2018 NHL Draft, Dudas has also put a total of 118 shots on net for Ontario this season, one of seven skaters to reach triple digits in that category. The Parry Sound, Ontario native is tied for fifth on the team in overall scoring, with the majority of his points, 22 of 30, coming at even strength.
GOTTA GO TO MO: Jacob Moverare earned his fifth power play assist and 26th point of the season Saturday night, helping to set up Tyler Madden’s opening goal while the Reign were on the man-advantage in the first period. Moverare ranks second among all Reign defenders in scoring this season behind Jordan Spence with a career-high 26 points on four goals and 22 assists. The former fourth round choice by the LA Kings in the 2016 NHL Draft has been an important factor on both ends of the ice for Ontario in 2022-23 and is expected to suit up for his 60th game of the regular season on Wednesday night in Palm Desert.
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, 3-2 SOW – Full Recap
Wed., Feb. 22 vs. Coachella Valley, 1-6 L – Full Recap
Fri., Mar. 31 vs. Coachella Valley, 0-4 L – Full Recap
Wed., Apr. 12 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.