REIGN PREVIEW 10/27 – Ontario at Henderson

WHO: Ontario Reign (3-2-0) vs. Henderson Silver Knights (5-1-0)
WHEN: Friday, October 27 @ 11:00 AM Pacific
WHERE: Dollar Loan Center – Henderson, NV
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: To complete their four-game road trip Friday, the Ontario Reign play outside of the state of California for the first time this season with a morning matchup in Nevada against the Henderson Silver Knights at the Dollar Loan Center.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Reign have won three in a row and are looking to extend their early season win streak to four contests while completing a perfect trip away from the Inland Empire. After moving above .500 for the first time this year, Ontario will have to be at its best to stay that way, facing a Silver Knights team that is in the Pacific Division lead with 10 points from its first six outings. Offensively, the Reign have been led by a pair of newcomers in forwards Charles Hudon (2-2=4) and Mikhail Maltsev (1-2=3) along with two returners, Martin Chromiak (1-2=3) and Alex Turcotte (1-2=3). Friday’s contest is the first of eight scheduled matchups (four home, four away) between Ontario and Henderson this season. The next time the two teams face off will be in early December for a Wednesday night contest at Toyota Arena on December 6.

LAST TIME OUT: Storyline: David Rittich stopped all 41 shots that were sent his way on Wednesday to give the Ontario Reign a third consecutive road win in the past six days by a 1-0 score over the Coachella Valley Firebirds at Acrisure Arena. The deciding goal in the first meeting of eight this season between the two I-10 rivals came from Reign defenseman Kevin Connauton, who blasted a slapshot past Firebirds’ goaltender Chris Driedger during 4-on-4 play late in the second period. Ontario was perfect on the penalty kill for the second outing in a row, discarding all four of Coachella Valley’s man-advantage chances.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: While it was a season full of struggles for Henderson a year ago which didn’t include any playoff competition, the Reign and Silver Knights had a mostly even eight-game season series. Ontario posted a record of 4-4-0 in the matchups, which like this season, included four at each team’s venue, and each resulted in 2-2-0 splits. The Reign scored 11 times on the man-advantage against the Silver Knights last season, more than against any of their other opponents, for a conversion rate of 36.7%. Ontario also fared well on the penalty kill, discarding 23 of Henderson’s 27 opportunities. Captain TJ Tynan was the Reign’s top scorer in last season’s series, posting seven points on a goal and six assists in the eight meetings. Tyler Madden also found success against the Silver Knights, scoring a team-high five goals in the series along with an assist for six points.

RITTICH’S BLANK SLATE: Netminder David Rittich recorded his first AHL shutout since November of 2017 on Wednesday night in Coachella Valley, blanking the Firebirds who had come off of a shutout performance themselves in a 4-0 decision Saturday in Tucson. Rittich has four shutouts to his name at the NHL level during his eight-year professional career, with the most recent clean sheet coming in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 22, 2021, a 34-save performance. The Jihlava, Czechia native now has a record of 2-2-0 this season in four appearances with Ontario, posting a goals-against average of 2.54 along with a 0.923 save percentage.

SCOUTING THE SILVER KNIGHTS: Henderson comes into Friday’s game on the heels of a 4-3 overtime win in San Jose Wednesday night which consisted of a third period comeback that saw veteran leader Byron Froese score the tying and winning tallies. In six contests to begin the 2023-24 season, the Silver Knights have scored the second-most goals in the AHL by netting a total 25 tallies for an average of 4.17 per game. This represents a big turnaround from last season’s roster which struggled to put the puck in the net and finished the year at 2.79 goals per outing that ranked 29th in the league. Henderson finished ninth in the Pacific Division standings a year ago and did not qualify for postseason play. Former Reign forward Sheldon Rempal is back with the Silver Knights for 2023-24 and has a team-leading eight points in the club’s first six games on five goals and three assists. Captain Gage Quinney has also returned to Henderson and has been a big factor early on with seven points on a goal and six assists. Returning goaltender Jiri Patera has started four of the team’s first six games to begin the year and has a 3-1-0 record to begin his fourth campaign with the club.

MORNING GLORY: Friday’s matchup represents the first time Ontario has dropped the puck during the morning hours since they contested a pair of 10:00 a.m. games in San Jose in the 2021-22 campaign. That Reign team earned wins in both of the early outings, posting a 4-1 victory on January 26, 2022, highlighted by goals from Gabriel Vilardi, Austin Wagner and TJ Tynan, before coming away with a 6-3 decision on March 30 which featured a pair of tallies by Akil Thomas and a shorthanded strike from Nikita Pavlychev.

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.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Henderson (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 27 at Henderson, 11:00 a.m.
Wed., Dec. 6 vs. Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 13 vs. Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 30 at Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 31 vs. Henderson, 5:00 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 9 vs. Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 3 at Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 13 at Henderson, 7:00 p.m.

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