REIGN PREVIEW 10/29 – Ontario vs. Abbotsford

WHO: Ontario Reign (4-2-0) vs. Abbotsford Canucks (5-1-1)
WHEN: Sunday, October 29 @ 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 return home to the Inland Empire Sunday afternoon for their first meeting of the season with the Abbotsford Canucks at Toyota Arena, looking to stretch their winning streak to five games.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Since dropping a pair of games to San Diego during the opening weekend of the regular season the Reign have won four straight, securing victories in four different Pacific Division buildings over the last two weeks. The perfect road trip moved Ontario above .500 and into fourth place in the standings, three points back of Abbotsford at the top of the table. Offensively, the Reign have gotten contributions from throughout the lineup, with eight skaters recording three or more points from their first six games. Currently, there’s a three-way tie atop the team’s scoring leaderboard with newcomer Mikhail Maltsev (3-2=5), who has a club-high three goals, along with captain TJ Tynan (1-4=5) and rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke (2-3=5) who is coming off his first-career three-point game. Sunday’s contest is the first of eight scheduled matchups (four home, four away) between Ontario and Abbotsford this season. The next time the two teams face off will be just before the league’s holiday break in December when the Reign travel north for a pair of contests on December 20 and 21.

LAST TIME OUT: Two first period goals got the Ontario Reign in front early and led to the team’s fourth straight road win, handing a defeat to the Henderson Silver Knights on Friday morning with a final score of 4-1 at the Dollar Loan Center. Brandt Clarke was on the ice for all four of Ontario’s tallies and factored into the scoring on three of them, posting a goal and two assists in the Reign victory. Captain TJ Tynan also had three assists in the win, while Mikhail Maltsev bookended the scoring, netting the opening goal in the first and adding insurance with the final empty-net strike late in the third.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign and Canucks had an even series during 2022-23, with Ontario earning a record of 4-3-1 in the eight contests. Ontario was 3-1-0 inside Toyota Arena against Abbotsford and went 1-2-1 in four trips to the Abbotsford Centre. The Reign scored eight times on the man-advantage against the Canucks last season for a conversion rate of 25%, but they were even better on the penalty kill by successfully fending off 14 of their 15 advantages (93.3%). Captain TJ Tynan was the Reign’s top scorer in last season’s series, posting nine points that included a four-point outburst on opening night when he earned a goal and three assists. Defender Jacob Moverare had seven helpers in the eight-game series, with six of them coming in the last four matchups.

RITTICH CONTINUES TO SHINE: Netminder David Rittich won his third straight outing Friday morning in Henderson and was named the first star of the game after stopping 28 of 29 Silver Knights shots. The win came on the heels of the goaltender’s first AHL shutout since November of 2017 on Wednesday night in Coachella Valley when he blanked the Firebirds with 41 saves. Rittich has four shutouts to his name at the NHL level during his eight-year professional career, with his most recent clean sheet coming in a 34-save performance in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 22, 2021. The Jihlava, Czechia native now has a record of 3-2-0 this season in five appearances with Ontario, posting a goals-against average of 2.23 and a 0.931 save percentage.

SCOUTING THE CANUCKS: Abbotsford comes into Sunday’s matchup after a road win in San Diego by a score of 5-2 on Friday. Former Ontario defenseman Christian Wolanin had a game-high three points with his first goal of the season and two assists. Wolanin is tied with forward Arshdeep Bains, who also had a goal and two assists Friday, for the team lead in scoring, each with 12 points in the club’s first seven games. Forward Vasily Podkolzin has netted five goals in seven games after making his AHL debut with the Canucks last season with 18 points in 28 contests. Linus Karlsson, the team’s highest-scoring forward a year ago, who totaled 49 points while playing in all 72 regular season games, has returned for 2023-24 and has two goals and four helpers for six points early on this season. Returning goaltender Arturs Silovs has a 3-1-1 record in five appearances while surrendering 18 goals, the second-most in the league this year. Rookie Nikita Tolopio has won his first two starts, including a 41-save performance in his debut in Laval, and has a 1.92 goals-against average to go along with a 0.949 save percentage.

MORNING GLORY: Friday’s early victory was 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. Just like they did on Friday, that Reign team earned wins in both of the early road 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. Abbotsford (all times Pacific):
Sun., Oct. 29 vs. Abbotsford, 3:00 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 20 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Thu., Dec. 21 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Tue., Jan. 16 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 17 at Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 21 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Sun., Mar. 3 vs. Abbotsford, 5:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 6 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.

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