REIGN PREVIEW 12/1 – Ontario vs. Coachella Valley

WHO: Ontario Reign (11-5-1-1) vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds (9-7-0-0)
WHEN: Friday, December 1 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Coachella Valley Firebirds visit Toyota Arena for the first time during 2023-24 on Friday night to battle the Ontario Reign in the opening contest of a weekend home-and-home series that concludes Saturday evening in Palm Desert.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: After having their four game win streak and eight game point streak snapped on Tuesday in a loss to Tucson, the Reign are looking to start a new run Friday night in their third battle of the season against Coachella Valley. Ontario remains in second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division standings with 24 points, while the Firebirds are in seventh with nine wins and 18 points from their first 16 games. With their recent hot play to close out the month of November, the Reign lowered their season goals-against average to 2.50 which ranks third in the league. Coachella Valley has been one of the highest-scoring teams in the AHL this season, averaging 3.50 goals per game which is tied for fifth in the league. The Reign have multiple players vying for the team’s scoring lead, which is currently held by captain TJ Tynan (3-18=21), who is fifth in the league with 21 points. Just behind him is defender Brandt Clarke, who leads all AHL defenders with 18 points on five goals and 13 assists, and Alex Turcotte who has 17 points on four goals and 13 helpers.

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign were unable to climb out of an early three goal hole and fell to the Tucson Roadrunners by a 3-2 score on Tuesday night at Toyota Arena. TJ Tynan and Akil Thomas found the back of the net for the Reign in the second period, while goaltender Erik Portillo came on in relief and stopped all 15 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes of the game.

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, but were more successful in Palm Desert than at home in the IE, going 1-2-1 at Toyota Arena. This season’s first two meetings have been more one-sided in favor of the Reign, who have shut out Coachella Valley in two straight to open the series, both times at Acrisure Arena. Goaltender David Rittich manned the net in both of those victories for Ontario, stopping 41 shots in the first which came by a 1-0 score on Oct. 25 and 24 in the second during a blowout 6-0 decision last week on Nov. 21. Defender Kevin Connauton netted the lone goal of the first matchup while the Reign got offense from throughout the lineup last Tuesday including two goals from Samuel Fagemo and four assists by TJ Tynan.

FAGEMO STAYING HOT: Forward Samuel Fagemo has dominated since returning to the Reign lineup prior earlier this month, posting 12 points in his first seven games with Ontario on eight goals and four assists. Fagemo has been on the scoresheet in each game, netting a goal in his first appearance on Nov. 12 and scoring twice on three different occasions including Ontario’s most recent victory on Saturday in San Jose. Four of his tallies have come via the power play, while three have ended up as game-winners. The Goteborg, Sweden native started the regular season with the Nashville Predators and earned a goal in four appearances but was placed on waivers and re-claimed by the LA Kings before being assigned to Ontario. In 158 career AHL games with Ontario, Fagemo has 106 points on 68 goals and 38 assists.

PORTILLO CONTINUES TO STAND OUT: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo entered a game in relief for the first time on Tuesday night and looked as good as he has when he’s gotten a chance to start, stopping all 15 shots that came his way through the final 40 minutes of action. In doing so, he strengthened his numbers this season, which are among the league’s leaders. Portillo’s goals-against average of 1.96 through seven appearances is fourth, while his 0.932 save percentage ranks third-highest in the AHL. The 6-foot-6 native of Goteborg, Sweden was acquired by the LA Kings in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres last March prior to the end of his final collegiate season at the University of Michigan where he went 25-11-2 in 38 appearances with a 0.908 save percentage.

SCOUTING THE FIREBIRDS: Coachella Valley is coming off a home loss to San Jose in their most recent matchup on Wednesday by a score of 5-3. Prior to that, they won on the road in Bakersfield Saturday night with a 4-2 victory. The Firebirds have been outstanding on the road to begin the year with a 7-1-0 record away from Palm Desert, but have only won two of their first eight home contests. Forward Max McCormick, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago with 67 points in 71 games, is once again the highest scoring skater on the club with 17 points in 16 games this season on eight goals and nine assists. Returners Cameron Hughes and Kole Lind are also among the team scoring leaders with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Netminder Chris Driedger has suited up in 11 games for Coachella Valley, earning a record of 6-5-0 with a goals-against average of 2.37 and a 0.911 save percentage.

PENALTY KILL PICKS IT UP: The Reign are the top penalty killing team while on the road so far this season, allowing just two man-advantage goals against from their first nine contests away from Ontario. In total, they’ve produced a 93.3% success rate from their road penalty kill by discarding 28 of 30 shorthanded situations and were perfect last week with a combined 9-for-9 mark in their three outings outside of the Inland Empire. While they haven’t been as successful at home, the Reign are still in the league’s top-10 teams when it comes to overall penalty killing with an 86.4% rate that ranks sixth.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Coachella Valley (all times Pacific):
Wed., Oct. 25 at Coachella Valley, 1-0 W – Full Recap
Tue., Nov. 21 at Coachella Valley, 6-0 W – Full Recap
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.

Rules for Blog Commenting

  • No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other comments, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • Please do not discuss, or post links to websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.

Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.

Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email