WHO: Ontario Reign (2-2-0) vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds (1-1-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #5
WHEN: Wednesday, October 25 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Acrisure Arena – Palm Desert, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO – Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign continues its four-game road trip Wednesday night with a matchup in Palm Desert against the Coachella Valley Firebirds at Acrisure Arena.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: After dropping a pair of home contests to San Diego during the opening weekend of 2023-24, Ontario hit the road and clamped down defensively to earn back-to-back wins away from the Inland Empire by scores of 3-2. The Reign now set their sights on moving above .500 for the first time. To do that, they’ll have to defeat the defending AHL Western Conference Champions in Coachella Valley. The Reign have been led on the offensive end by three newcomers in forwards Charles Hudon (2-2=4) and Mikhail Maltsev (1-2=3) along with defenseman Joe Hicketts (0-3=3). Wednesday’s contest is the first of eight scheduled matchups (four home, four away) between the Reign and Firebirds this season. The next time Ontario and Coachella Valley see each other will be next month for another midweek contest at Acrisure Arena on Tuesday, November 21.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign made goaltender Erik Portillo’s first professional start a winning one, defeating the Bakersfield Condors Saturday by a final score of 3-2 to spoil their opponent’s home opener for a second consecutive night. Tyler Madden led the way on the offensive end for Ontario, scoring his first two goals of the season in the second period. Portillo turned aside 15 shots in the contest, while Charles Hudon added a goal early on in the third that ended up as the game-winner. After dropping their first two games of the season last weekend, Ontario is now back to .500 on the year.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario had a mostly even inaugural season series with the Firebirds last season, posting a record of 3-4-1 in eight outings, including a 2-2-0 mark in Palm Desert. The four games in the desert featured an even goal differential, with each club scoring on each other 14 times. The Reign scored eight times on the man-advantage against the Firebirds last season while Coachella Valley netted six power play goals. Captain TJ Tynan was the Reign’s top scorer in last season’s series, posting 10 points on a goal and nine assists. Martin Chromiak also found success against CV, netting a team-high five goals in the series.
PORTILLO WINS HIS DEBUT: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo made his professional debut on Saturday in Bakersfield and helped lead Ontario to a win over the Condors with 15 saves. Portillo turned pro and signed his first contract with the Reign late in the 2022-23 year after completing his NCAA season with the University of Michigan which included a Big Ten conference championship and a run to the Frozen Four. The netminder was previously selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft and was acquired by the LA Kings in a trade on March 1. The Gothenburg, Sweden native made two preseason appearances this fall, one with the LA Kings in a win over Anaheim on Sept. 29 and another for the Reign in a victory against San Diego on Oct. 8.
SCOUTING THE FIREBIRDS: After falling short to Bakersfield in their season-opener, Coachella Valley picked up its first win of the season with a 4-0 triumph over Tucson in their most recent outing on Saturday. The Firebirds were one of only two teams that eclipsed the 100-point mark in the standings last season, finishing in second place in the AHL with a record of 48-17-5-2 on their way to an appearance in the Calder Cup Final. Forward Max McCormick, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago with 67 points in 71 games, returns for a second year with the Firebirds along with Kole Lind, who had a club-high 30 goals. Netminder Chris Driedger is coming off a shutout performance against the Roadrunners, which consisted of 27 saves. Driedger has started both games for Coachella Valley to begin the 2023-24 season.
MADDEN ON THE ATTACK: Forward Tyler Madden broke out Saturday in Bakersfield, scoring his first two goals of the 2023-24 campaign in the second period. While the fourth-year attacker was held off the scoresheet in Ontario’s first three games, he netted the first goal of the contest on Saturday at 2:50 of the second period before adding another tally 10 minutes later at 13:29. Madden is coming off his most successful campaign a year ago when he set career-highs with 20 goals, 33 points and 71 games played for the Reign. In 137 career AHL contests with Ontario, Madden, a former third-round selection of the Vancouver Canucks, has scored 71 points on 37 goals and 34 assists.
HUDON HEATING UP: Forward Charles Hudon netted his second goal of the season in the third period of Saturday’s Reign win in Bakersfield. At the time it was scored, the goal gave Ontario some insurance and a two-goal lead. But after the Condors scored in the final minute of regulation, Hudon’s strike ended up as his first game-winning tally with Ontario. The Alma, Que. native has been on the scoresheet in three straight contests, posting a goal and an assist against San Diego on Oct. 15 before adding an assist against the Gulls last Friday and his goal in Bakersfield Saturday evening. Hudon has racked up a team-high 20 shots on goal in Ontario’s first four contests. In a total of 384 career AHL games, Hudon has registered 312 points on 163 goals and 149 assists.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Coachella Valley (all times Pacific):
Wed., Oct. 25 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Tue., Nov. 21 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 1 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 2 at Coachella Valley, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 20 vs. Coachella Valley, 6:00 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 23 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Mar. 15 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 10 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.