WHO: Ontario Reign (0-0-0) vs. San Diego Gulls (0-0-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #1
WHEN: Friday, October 13 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO – Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign kick off the 2023-24 season Friday night at Toyota Arena with a matchup against the rival San Diego Gulls.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With Marco Sturm embarking on his second season as the team’s bench boss, the Reign are once again expected to compete with the best in the Pacific Division. Ontario’s opening night roster is filled with returning stars, including captain and two-time AHL MVP TJ Tynan, a healthy Alex Turcotte, who completed an impressive training camp with the Kings, as well as Tyler Madden, who reached the 30-point plateau for the second consecutive season with a career-high 20 goals and 13 assists. The team’s back end has been boosted with the addition of veterans Kevin Connauton, Joe Hicketts and Steven Santini, each of whom has extensive experience in the AHL, but also has a steady returner in Jacob Moverare and rookies Brandt Clarke and Cole Krygier, who both stood out in short stints with the Reign during 2022-23.
PRESEASON PRIZES: The Ontario Reign secured an impressive victory in their lone contest of the AHL’s Preseason on Sunday, defeating the San Diego Gulls by a final score of 6-2 at Toyota Arena. Forwards Alex Turcotte and Alex Laferriere each scored twice and added an assist in the contest, while defender Joe Hicketts posted a goal and an assist. Goaltender Erik Portillo got the start in net and stopped 20 shots to earn the win.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario was at its best against San Diego last season and will look to continue the success again in 2023-24. With a record of 6-1-1 from eight matchups, the Reign secured 13 of a possible 16 points available in the standings when facing the Gulls. Ontario outscored San Diego 28-16 in last year’s series and produced a 35% power play success rate with seven goals in 20 opportunities. The Reign also killed 20 of 24 Gulls’ man-advantages (83.3%). Captain TJ Tynan was Ontario’s leading scorer against the Gulls last season, posting nine, all of which were assists. Returning forwards Martin Chromiak (5-2=7) and Tyler Madden also had strong offensive performances against San Diego (2-5=7).
FIRST LAP FOR LAF: Rookie forward Alex Laferriere was recalled by the LA Kings this week after posting three points in Ontario’s preseason win over San Diego on Sunday. Laferriere made his NHL debut Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena for the Kings against Colorado and stood out among the team’s attackers while suiting up alongside high-scoring stars Kevin Fiala and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Chatham, N.J. native registered four shots on goal while logging 16:08 of ice time and seven penalty minutes, including a fight with Colorado’s Logan O’Connor.
SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego is looking to bounce back after missing the Calder Cup Playoffs last spring with a finish at the bottom of the league’s standings. One of their top returners from last season is forward Glenn Gawdin, who earned himself playing time in Anaheim last year and finished with 33 points in 57 games on 17 goals and 16 assists. Two other notable names that have returned to San Diego after spending time away from the Gulls are forward Andrew Agozzino and defender Trevor Carrick. Agozzino was with the San Jose Barracuda last season and led the club in scoring with 61 points in 63 games. Carrick, meanwhile, suited up for the Syracuse Crunch and posted 46 points on 15 goals and 31 helpers. Top defensive prospects Tyson Hinds and Owen Zellweger are also expected to begin the season on San Diego’s roster, while the team has the services of veteran goaltender Alex Stalock in net.
MASKED MARVELS: The Reign’s opening night roster features a pair of goaltenders who are in different parts of their respective careers. David Rittich, a veteran of 172 NHL games over seven seasons, returns to the AHL for the first time since 2017-18 when he was a member of the Stockton Heat. Rittich suited up for 21 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season, earning a goals-against average of 2.68 and a .901 save percentage while posting a 9-8-1 record. He also appeared in the 2020 NHL All-Star game while representing the Calgary Flames. On the other end of the spectrum, Erik Portillo is beginning his rookie professional season after completing his collegiate career at the University of Michigan last spring. While Portillo is yet to play in a professional regular season game, he posted preseason wins with both the Kings and Reign this fall, defeating Anaheim on September 29 and San Diego this past Sunday at Toyota Arena. Portillo made 87 appearances for the Wolverines over the past three seasons, including 38 as a junior in 2022-23 where he won 25 games while helping his team to a second consecutive Big Ten Championship.
SOPHOMORE SEASONS: Ontario welcomes back multiple players to its roster who were rookies last season and are looking to take the next step in their second professional campaign. Former LA Kings second-round selection Samuel Helenius is back in the center position after appearing in 61 contests last year and improving his game throughout. Martin Chromiak, who registered 28 points on 15 goals and 13 assists, will also return for year two with the Reign under head coach Marco Sturm, in addition to forward Taylor Ward who suited up for 71 of the team’s 72 contests last season and Finnish defender Kim Nousiainen who is approaching game No. 50 in his AHL career.