WHO: Ontario Reign (5-2-0) at Colorado Eagles (2-4-2)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #8
WHEN: Friday, November 3 @ 6:05 PM Pacific
WHERE: Blue Arena – Loveland, CO
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign open a weekend series with the Colorado Eagles on the road in Loveland Friday night, looking to extend the AHL’s longest active winning streak to six 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 five straight, securing victories in five different Pacific Division buildings to close out the month of October as one of the hottest teams in the league. The stretch moved Ontario into fourth place in the standings, just two points back of Henderson at the top of the table. Offensively, the Reign have gotten contributions throughout the lineup, with seven skaters recording four or more points from their first seven games. Currently, there’s a two-way tie atop the team’s scoring leaderboard with newcomer forward Charles Hudon (3-3=6) and rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke (2-4=6). Hudon is also tied with forward Mikhail Maltsev for the club’s goal-scoring lead, each having found the back of the net three times. Friday’s contest is the first of eight scheduled matchups (four home, four away) between Ontario and Colorado this season.
LAST TIME OUT: 12 skaters from the home side registered a point Sunday afternoon as the Ontario Reign won their fifth consecutive game, defeating the Abbotsford Canucks by a final score of 5-3 at Toyota Arena. Charles Hudon factored in on two of the tallies, posting a goal and an assist in the win, while Jacob Doty scored for the second straight game and goaltender Erik Portillo made 25 saves to improve to 2-0-0.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign and Eagles had an even series during the 2022-23 regular season, with the teams evenly splitting their eight clashes 4-4-0, and 2-2-0 on each other’s home ice. Ontario outscored Colorado by the slimmest of margins, posting 25 goals while allowing 24. The Reign scored eight times on the man-advantage against the Eagles last season for a conversion rate of 20.5%. Ontario’s captain TJ Tynan led his team’s offense in the series against his former team with 14 points on a goal and 13 assists. However, Colorado ended the Reign’s year for the third consecutive postseason, sweeping a best-of-3 playoff series last April with wins by scores of 3-2 (OT) and 6-4.
FORMER EAGLES RETURN TO THE NEST: Ontario captain TJ Tynan isn’t the only former Colorado skater returning to his former home this weekend. Joining him are forwards Charles Hudon and Mikhail Maltsev, who each previously starred for the Eagles, as well as defender Kevin Connauton. Hudon led Colorado in scoring a year ago during 2022-23, earning 54 points in 61 regular season games with a team-high 29 goals and 25 assists to go along with a +17 rating. Although Maltsev battled injury last season, he still managed 21 points in 28 games with 11 goals and 10 helpers. The year prior in 2021-22, Maltsev came just short of a 50-point campaign, posting 17 goals and 31 assists for 48 points. The St. Petersburg, Russia native also had 10 points in 16 career postseason appearances with the Eagles. Connauton suited up for 38 games with Colorado during 2019-20, scoring 27 points on five goals and 22 assists.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Colorado comes into Friday’s matchup having won just two of their first eight contests to begin the season. The Eagles split a season-opening four-game series with the Grand Rapids Griffins, losing twice in Michigan before earning a pair of victories at home in Loveland. Since then, Colorado managed to claim just two more points via overtime losses from a four-game road trip that consisted of a pair of outings in both Abbotsford and Calgary. Forward Riley Tufte leads the Eagles in both goals and overall scoring with six tallies and eight points while appearing in six of the club’s eight games. Forward Peter Holland is second on the team with seven points on four goals and three helpers. Defender Brad Hunt is back for a second campaign in Colorado and has earned four points on two goals and two assists, while blueliners Jack Ahcan and Caleb Jones have each equaled that output with four points apiece. Returning goaltender Justus Annunen has allowed just 10 goals in his first five appearances for a goals-against average of 1.96, but has only been on the winning end of two games thus far. Annunen’s 107 saves on 117 shots is good for a 0.915 save percentage.
PINELLI GETS ON THE BOARD: Rookie forward Francesco Pinelli earned his first career professional goal during the second period of Sunday’s victory over Abbotsford, deflecting a shot by Steven Santini into the back of the net to give Ontario a 2-0 advantage. Pinelli picked up his first point with an assist in just his second game for the Reign on Oct. 15. The Stoney Creek, Ont. native was selected by the LA Kings in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft and previously starred during his time with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, scoring 191 points in 174 games for three seasons from 2019-23.
PORTILLO STAYING WARM: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo followed up a win in his professional debut on October 21 in Bakersfield with a second win on Sunday over Abbotsford, stopping 25 shots in the victory. 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 has yet to lose in any of his appearances with the organization which included two preseason games 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. Colorado (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 3 at Colorado, 6:05 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 4 at Colorado, 6:05 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 12 vs. Colorado, 3:00 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 16 vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.
Tue., Jan. 30 vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 2 vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 20 at Colorado, 6:05 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 21 at Colorado, 2:05 p.m.