REIGN PREVIEW 10/15 – Ontario vs. San Diego

WHO: Ontario Reign (0-1-0) vs. San Diego Gulls (1-0-0)
WHEN: Sunday, October 15 @ 3:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO – Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls battle for the second time in three days Sunday at Toyota Arena in the second contest of the 2023-24 season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is looking to secure its first win of the new season after coming up short Friday on Opening Night, a 4-1 defeat to begin the year. The Reign had won each of their past three October openers, making it the first time since 2018 that they’ve begun the season in October 0-1. Sunday’s matchup is the second of eight scheduled contests (four home, four away) against the Gulls during 2023-24.

LAST TIME OUT: San Diego scored three times in the third period to spoil the 2023-24 season-opener for the Reign, who fell by a final score of 4-1 on Friday night at Toyota Arena. Mikhail Maltsev scored the lone goal for Ontario in the contest, converting on a wrist shot off a loose rebound in the third period. Alex Stalock secured the win for San Diego and was named the first star of the game after making 40 saves, while Gulls’ forward Pavol Regenda scored two of the team’s goals in the contest.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario was at its best against San Diego last season, holding 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 in 2022-23. 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).

MALTSEV ON THE MONEY: Forward Mikhail Maltsev scored Ontario’s first goal of the season Friday night in his debut with the club, wristing a shot past goaltender Alex Stalock halfway through the third period. The St. Petersburg, Russia native has 41 goals in 135 career AHL games with the Reign, Colorado Eagles and Binghamton Devils. A year ago Maltsev battled injury but registered 21 points in 28 games on 11 goals and 10 assists. He also suited up for five NHL contests with the Colorado Avalanche and has made NHL appearances in each of the past three seasons.

SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego secured two points from their first outing of 2023-24, already starting better than what they showed a year ago when they fell short of playoff contention at the bottom of the AHL standings. One of the Gulls’ 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. Gawdin was on the scoresheet in Friday’s contest, scoring an empty-net goal late in the third period. Forward Jacob Perreault, now in his fourth season with San Diego, also scored in the opener, registering his 26th career AHL tally.  Top defensive prospect Owen Zellweger accounted for a pair of assists, with one on Perreault’s strike and the other coming on a power play goal by Pavol Regenda.

THINGS CLICKING FOR CLARKE: Defenseman Brandt Clarke didn’t produce any points in his first AHL contest of the new season on Friday, but he was certainly heavily involved in Ontario’s offensive attack. The rookie blueliner piled up a total of 10 shots on goal in a losing effort for the Reign, including five in the third period as Ontario attempted a comeback. Clarke made his AHL debut last November, appearing in five contests for the Reign while posting a goal and an assist before finishing his season in the OHL with the Barrie Colts where he starred with 61 points in just 31 outings on 23 goals and 38 helpers.

MASKED MARVELS: The Reign’s opening night roster featured 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 made an appearance 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 last 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.

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