WHO: Ontario Reign (0-2-0) vs. San Diego Gulls (2-0-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #3
WHEN: Friday, October 20 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Pechanga Arena – San Diego, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO – Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: In what will be a third consecutive meeting for the two rivals to begin the season, the Ontario Reign battle San Diego Friday night for the Gulls’ home opener at Pechanga Arena.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: After coming up short in a pair of home matchups last week on Friday and Sunday, Ontario is still looking to earn its first win of the 2023-24 year. The Reign fell by a 4-1 final in the season opener and 6-4 two days later. Friday’s contest is the third of eight scheduled matchups (four home, four away) between the two teams this season. After the three-game series concludes tonight, Ontario won’t see the Gulls until the final days of 2013 when they return to Pechanga Arena on Dec. 28.
LAST TIME OUT: Despite multi-point nights for three Ontario Reign skaters, the San Diego Gulls had the last laugh on Sunday, coming from behind to earn their second straight victory of the weekend at Toyota Arena by a score of 6-4. Ontario’s offense was highlighted forward Ryan Francis, who scored his first career AHL goal in the first period, as well as forwards Alex Turcotte and Charles Hudon who each had a goal and an assist and a pair of assists from defender Joe Hicketts.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario was at its best against San Diego last season but has come up short early on against the Gulls this year. In 2022-23, the Reign earned a record of 6-1-1 from eight matchups against one of their SoCal rivals and secured 13 of a possible 16 points in the standings. 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 points, 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).
HICKETTS HELPS OUT: Defenseman Joe Hicketts has been on the scoresheet in each of his first two contests since joining the Reign this season, his eighth pro year. Hicketts picked up the second assist on Ontario’s first goal of the season, a strike by forward Mikhail Maltsev on opening night. The Kamloops, B.C. native then added two more helpers on Sunday, earning the second assist on a first period power play goal by Alex Turcotte before setting up Charles Hudon for a late strike during a comeback bid in the third. Hicketts is coming off a career-high in scoring last season when he posted 48 points on six goals and 42 assists with the Iowa Wild.
SCOUTING THE GULLS: San Diego secured a win in each of their first two outings of 2023-24 as they aim to right the ship this season after finishing at the bottom of the AHL standings a year ago. The Gulls fell short of playoff contention for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign. 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 has been on the scoresheet in both of the team’s wins, posting an empty-net goal late in the third period Friday before adding an assist on Sunday. Forward Jacob Perreault, now in his fourth season with San Diego, has also factored into both wins, scoring goals in each victory for the Gulls. Top defensive prospect Owen Zellweger accounted for three assists during the season’s opening weekend, while Pavol Regenda leads the team with three goals scored after netting two on Friday and one on Sunday.
THINGS CLICKING FOR CLARKE: Defenseman Brandt Clarke turned heads in both of Ontario’s season-opening home games last weekend. While the rookie didn’t produce any points in his first AHL contest of the new season on Friday, he was still heavily involved in Ontario’s offensive attack. Clarke 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. The blueliner then scored his first goal of the campaign Sunday by wristing a shot to the back of the net on the power play to tie the game at 3-3 in the second period. 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.
HUDON HEATING UP: Forward Charles Hudon capped off the regular season opening weekend by scoring a goal and an assist Sunday, the first points he’s recorded with his new team. The Alma, Que. native picked up the primary assist on Alex Turcotte’s second period power play goal before netting his first tally with the Reign at 16:22 of the third period. Hudon also racked up 14 total shots on goal in Ontario’s first two contests, including a team-high nine shots Sunday. In a total of 382 career AHL games, Hudon has registered 310 points on 162 goals and 148 assists.