The AHL released the full schedule for the 2023-24 season on Wednesday and we can now officially begin dissecting the upcoming campaign. Ontario’s schedule format has not changed at all from last season when the Pacific Division expanded its slate to 72 games. The club will continue to face each of its nine divisional opponents a total of eight times, with four home and four road contests against each.
With a detailed breakdown to follow below, here’s a look at the full 2023-24 Ontario Reign regular-season schedule –
As was previously announced last month, the Reign will open at home on the first day of the AHL calendar, testing their luck on Friday, October 13 against San Diego. Although the schedule is balanced in terms of how many total games Ontario plays against each opponent, that isn’t the case for when those matchups will occur. Opening Night begins a stretch of three consecutive games between the two rivals to kick off the year, with the second also coming at Toyota Arena two days later. The third will serve as San Diego’s home opener at Pechanga Arena the following week on Friday, October 20. It will be the second straight season that Ontario is the visitor for the Gulls’ opener.
While the matchups between the two rivals were heated as fans would expect last season, the Reign fared better against the Gulls than any other team, securing 13 of 16 possible points from the series. San Diego is looking to turn the page from a 2022-23 campaign that saw them earn just 20 wins, the lowest number in the AHL last season. With a new head coach in Matt McIlvane and a different looking roster, they’ll certainly be looking to change their fortunes in October.
All four of Ontario’s home contests against the Gulls will occur on weekend dates at Toyota Arena this season. After the two matchups in mid-October, the Reign won’t host SD again until Friday, March 1 before closing out their home regular season with the final scheduled matchup between the clubs on April 12.
Ontario’s newest rival, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, proved to be a handful in their inaugural season, finishing in second place in the Pacific Division before coming a game shy of a Calder Cup Championship during a playoff run that saw them win the Western Conference and force a Game 7 in the finals. The Reign still managed to play the Firebirds close, going 3-4-1-0 to secure points in four of their first eight meetings. This year, all four home matchups with Coachella Valley will take place on weekends spread out over different months, with contests in Ontario on Friday, December 1, Saturday, January 20, Friday, February 23 and Friday, March 15. Reign fans looking to make the trip to the desert only have one weekend day to choose from, Saturday, December 2, for the back half of a home-and-home series.
Ontario will be north of the border for eight games once again this season, with their first Canadian road trip coming in Abbotsford against the Canucks December 20-21 just prior to the league’s holiday break. The following month, the Reign will have their longest trip of the season which will include back-to-back matchups against both opponents north of the border with games in Calgary January 11-12 and a pair of contests in Abbotsford January 16-17. Ontario will make its second trip to see the Wranglers as the stretch run starts to heat up with a pair of weekend games March 9-10.
In addition, the Reign also have two trips to Colorado to face the Eagles this season, with matchups on November 3-4 and April 20-21 to close the regular season. The Eagles, who eliminated Ontario in the first round of last season’s Calder Cup Playoffs last May, will return to Toyota Arena for contests on November 12, December 16, January 30 and February 2.
Other highlights on the Reign’s home schedule include the team’s annual New Year’s Eve tilt against Henderson on Sunday, December 31 and a St. Patrick’s Day weekend matchup with the Firebirds on Friday, March 15.
– As has been the case in previous seasons, many of this year’s games will be played on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, with a total of 49 contests and 68% of the schedule taking place on one of those three days. Another popular gameday for the Reign this season will be Wednesdays, as the team will host six contests on hump day and travel for eight others, making it the team’s third-most played on day of the week.
– The most frequent day of the week on the overall schedule is Friday, with 20 total games including 13 at Toyota Arena. Ontario will play 19 games on Saturday, which is also the most frequent day for the team to be on the road. The Reign will also be outside of the IE for eight Wednesday road games.
– Once again, the Reign believe in home Sundays. It will be the second-most played on day of the week at home, with Ontario hosting eight contests on Sunday during 2023-24. However, the Reign will only play two Sunday road games next season, with the lone occurrences coming in Calgary on March 10 and the regular season finale in Colorado on April 21.
– Ontario’s schedule begins with a well-balanced split between home and away games during the first three months, with 15 home and 15 road contests before the calendar flips to 2024. Things become a little lopsided thereafter, with more road games in January than any other month, followed by the busiest home stretch of the season at Toyota Arena in March before the campaign ends with six of the final eight contests on the road in April.
– February should be the easiest month on the team as far as travel goes, with only three contests outside of the Inland Empire and just one trip that requires a team flight, a back-to-back in Tucson against the Roadrunners (Feb. 16-17). The Reign will host six games during the second month of 2024 against six different teams. Colorado, Calgary and Henderson will be in town during a busy home week from February 2-9, before Abbotsford, Coachella Valley and San Jose make trips to Ontario later in the month between the 21st and 27th.
– The stretch run tends to be the busiest for teams in the AHL, and that will continue to be the case for the Reign this season with 13 total games in March, their month with the most games. Luckily for Ontario, eight of those contests take place at home, including four of the last five which will all happen in an 11-day span from March 20-30. The middle of the month will take the team out of town for a two-game set in Calgary, as well as trips to San Diego and Bakersfield.
Odds & Ends
– For a second consecutive season, Ontario will play a total of 19 back-to-backs, with 10 of them coming entirely away from home. Most of those are road trips in Abbotsford, Calgary, Colorado or Tucson. When those teams make their way to Southern California there are more opponents for them to play within driving distance which necessitates less two-game sets in Ontario.
– New Year’s Eve has become an annual tradition for Ontario and that will continue again with a matchup against Henderson at Toyota Arena. But games on holidays will be few and far between for the Reign, with only two other games on holidays including a Black Friday matchup in San Jose on November 25 and a home contest on the first night of Hanukkah against Bakersfield on December 8.
– While most of Ontario’s games will begin at 6 or 7 p.m. in the pacific time zone, there will be a few exceptions where the team will drop the puck earlier in the day. Six of the Reign’s eight Sunday home games will begin at 3 p.m., while the New Year’s Eve contest will begin at 5 p.m., as will the team’s game on March 3 against Abbotsford. Ontario will also be in Henderson for an 11 a.m. start time on Friday, October 27 and its Black Friday tilt in San Jose will have a matinee start at 2 p.m. Later in the campaign the Reign will visit San Diego on Saturday, February 24 for a 4 p.m. game and the regular season finale in Colorado on April 21 gets underway at 2:05 p.m.
– The AHL All-Star Classic will be hosted by the San Jose Barracuda this season, taking place in Northern California February 4-5 at Tech CU Arena. The Reign finish their pre-break schedule the night before with a home game in Ontario against Calgary on Saturday, February 3. The 2024 All-Star event will include the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, February 4 and the AHL All-Star Challenge the following evening, Monday, February 5.
The 2023-24 AHL season is now just 93 days away! Between now and then we’ll have updates here on LAKI as Ontario continues to shape its roster. To this point, the Reign have only announced one AHL contract signing, a two-year pact with forward Charles Hudon that was agreed to on July 3. We can definitely expect more announcements throughout the summer so stay tuned as the countdown to a new season continues!