WHO: Ontario Reign (14-7-2-1) vs. Colorado Eagles (11-9-3-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #25
WHEN: Friday, December 16 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: After a rare Friday off, the Ontario Reign host the Colorado Eagles for the second time this season at Toyota Arena and the fourth meeting of the clubs overall on Saturday evening. The contest will be the first Saturday game held in Ontario during the 2023-24 year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is currently holding second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division with 31 points from 24 games played. The Reign have been a tough team on the defensive side of the puck this season allowing just 2.54 goals per game which is second-best in the league. While Colorado is averaging just over three goals per game from their 23 contests which ranks 17th in the league, the Eagles put the puck on net more than any team except for Coachella Valley, averaging 34 shots per outing which is second-most in the AHL. The Reign have multiple players vying for the team’s scoring lead, and currently have a tie at the top between captain TJ Tynan, who scored in the team’s last outing on Wednesday, and rookie defender Brandt Clarke, who was held off the scoresheet for just the seventh time all season. Both skaters have 25 points on an identical five goals and 20 assists while suiting up for all 24 of Ontario’s contests this season.
LAST TIME OUT: An overtime goal by Jakub Brabenec gave the Henderson Silver Knights their first win over the Ontario Reign this season by a score of 3-2 Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. The Reign got goals from TJ Tynan and Taylor Ward in the contest, while Charles Hudon and Samuel Fagemo each posted assists to extend their respective point streaks to five games. By securing one point from the overtime loss, the Reign continue to hold second place in the Pacific Division with 31 points in the standings.
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 Eagles earned wins from the first two clashes in this season’s series with identical 5-3 decisions in Loveland on the first weekend of November, but Ontario battled back the following week with a 4-2 win at Toyota Arena. Ontario’s captain TJ Tynan led his team’s offense in last season’s series against his former team with 14 points, a goal and 13 assists. Tynan has racked up five assists for the Reign from the first three outings against Colorado this season, while another former Eagle, Charles Hudon, has four goals and an assist. Colorado’s leading scorer Riley Tufte has also had success against Ontario, scoring five points in the three games on three goals and two helpers.
FAGEMO’S FLAIR CONTINUES: Forward Samuel Fagemo has dominated since returning to the Reign lineup last month, posting 19 points in his first 13 games with Ontario on 11 goals and eight assists. Fagemo has been on the scoresheet in 12 of his 13 AHL contests, scoring twice on three different occasions and contributing six multi-point games. The fourth year forward leads the Reign in goal scoring and is tied for the league’s lead with seven power play goals despite playing in just over half of the team’s games. A native of Goteborg, Sweden, Fagemo 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 on Nov. 11 before being assigned to Ontario. In 164 career AHL games with Ontario, Fagemo has 113 points on 71 goals and 42 assists.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Colorado enters Saturday’s matchup as the seventh-place team in the Pacific Division standings, however they sit just three points back of fourth-place Abbotsford through 23 games. Forward Riley Tufte leads the Eagles in both goals and overall scoring with 10 tallies and 20 points while appearing in 18 of the club’s 23 games. Defender Brad Hunt is back for a second campaign in Colorado and has earned 16 points on seven goals and nine assists. Forward Cedric Pare is third among active skaters on the team with 11 points in 17 games on three goals and eight assists, while Tanner Kero is right behind him with 10 points on two goals and eight helpers. Returning goaltender Justus Annunen has been a standout performer in his first 12 appearances for a goals-against average of 2.49, securing seven of the team’s 11 wins.
PORTILLO CONTINUES TO STAND OUT: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo improved his record to 7-1-0 from his first eight professional starts with another victory on Saturday, his second of the year at Bakersfield’s Mechanics Bank Arena. The netminder has allowed just 17 goals this season in nine appearances, an average of less than two per game. Both Portillo’s 1.96 goals-against average and 0.931 save percentage rank third-best in the AHL this season. 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.
RECENT ROSTER TRANSACTIONS: Since they were last in action on Wednesday, Ontario’s roster has gone through multiple changes, with a total of four transactions in the past two days. First on Thursday, the LA Kings recalled defenseman Tobias Bjornfot who completed his conditioning loan with Wednesday’s game. The loan, which had two parts to it after Bjornfot suffered an injury on Nov. 21, totaled nine games and spanned almost a month. In addition, the Reign released defender Cody Haiskanen from his tryout agreement after the blueliner suited up for the team’s last four games, the first AHL contests of his pro career. Then on Friday, Ontario recalled defenseman Max Martin from their ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. It is the first recall of the season for Martin, who has suited up for 18 ECHL games this season while posting 15 points on three goals and 12 assists. Martin had a breakout campaign last year in Greenville, totaling 52 points in 66 games. He’s previously seen action in 22 AHL contests for the Texas Stars during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns. Finally, the LA Kings recalled David Rittich Friday afternoon prior to the team’s trip to Seattle for a contest with the Kraken on Saturday night. Rittich, a veteran of 172 NHL games in his career, has appeared in 16 games fo the Reign this season, going 7-6-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Colorado (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 3 at Colorado, 3-5 L – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 4 at Colorado, 3-5 L – Full Recap
Sun., Nov. 12 vs. Colorado, 4-2 W – Full Recap
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.