WHO: Ontario Reign (15-9-3-1) at Henderson Silver Knights (15-12-1-2)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #29
WHEN: Saturday, December 30 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Dollar Loan Center – Henderson, NV
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign are set to begin a home-and-home series to close out the 2023 portion of their season against the Henderson Silver Knights that kicks off Saturday evening at the Dollar Loan Center. The matchups are the third and fourth times that the two teams will see each other in December. Ontario has a record of 2-0-1 against the Silver Knights in three previous contests this year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Coming into Saturday’s tilt, Ontario and Henderson are separated by just a single point in the Pacific Division standings. The Reign have banked 34 points from their first 28 games, while the Silver Knights have 33 points after 30 contests. Ontario is currently holding fourth place and sits two points behind Abbotsford. Tonight’s matchup will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two clubs, who last contested a game on Dec. 13 in Ontario which Henderson in overtime by a 3-2 score. The Reign have multiple players vying for the team’s scoring lead, which is currently held by rookie defender Brandt Clarke who has 29 points on the year with six goals and 23 assists. TJ Tynan is just behind him with 26 points on five goals and 21 assists while suiting up for all 28 of Ontario’s games.
LAST TIME OUT: A goal in overtime by Glenn Gawdin was the difference in a back-and-forth game Thursday, giving the San Diego Gulls a 4-3 win over the Ontario Reign in the fourth matchup of the season between the SoCal rivals at Pechanga Arena. Brandt Clarke scored a goal and an assist for Ontario in a losing effort, while Samuel Fagemo and Samuel Helenius also found the back of the net for the Reign. Erik Portillo made the start for Ontario between the pipes and turned out 28 shots in a losing effort.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario was able to earn multi-goal victories from each of the first two meetings with Henderson this season, winning 4-1 on Oct. 27 and 3-1 on Dec. 6, but fell in overtime from the most recent outing on Dec. 13 by a 3-2 final. Overall, the Reign have outscored the Silver Knights by a 9-5 margin in the series. The two clubs have both posted the same number of shots on net in the four games, each totaling 73. Ontario has fared better on special teams in the series as well, scoring twice on the man advantage (2-for-9, 22.2%) while allowing only one strike on the penalty kill and discarding seven of Henderson’s eight opportunities (87.5%). Brandt Clarke has led all Reign skaters against the Silver Knights this season with five points on a goal and four assists, while TJ Tynan has totaled four points with a goal and three helpers. A year ago, Ontario posted a record of 4-4-0 from eight contests against Henderson, which included a 2-2-0 mark at each team’s venue.
FAGEMO’S FEROCIOUS RETURN: Forward Samuel Fagemo has dominated since returning to the Reign lineup last month, posting 22 points in his first 17 games with Ontario on 13 goals and nine assists. Fagemo has been on the scoresheet in 15 of his 17 AHL contests, scoring twice on three different occasions and contributing six multi-point games. The fourth-year forward leads the team in goal scoring and also ranks second in the league with seven power play goals. 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 168 career AHL games with Ontario, Fagemo has 116 points on 73 goals and 43 assists.
SCOUTING THE SILVER KNIGHTS: Henderson’s most recent result was a 3-1 loss to Bakersfield on Thursday. Prior to the league’s holiday break, they defeated San Jose 3-2 on Saturday. The Silver Knights are led by forward Grigori Denisenko who has a team-high 26 points on 10 goals and 16 assists while appearing in 28 of the team’s 30 games. Second-year attacker Brendan Brisson is also picking up steam and has posted 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists, while veteran Adam Cracknell has 22 points on 12 goals and 10 helpers. Former Reign forward Sheldon Rempal has once again been a big part of the Silver Knights’ offense with 20 points on 11 goals and nine helpers. Since returning from injury, goaltender Isaiah Saville has posted a 3-1-0 record in four appearances with a goals-against average of 1.50 and a 0.947 save percentage. Jesper Vikman has also played well in net and has a 3-0-0 in his first four appearances with a 2.53 goals-against average.
CAN’T STOP CLARKE: In addition to holding the scoring lead among all Reign skaters this season, rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke has been the most prolific offensive defender in the AHL so far this season. Through 28 games, Clarke’s 29 points on six goals and 23 assists are the most of any blueliner in the league. Clarke’s assist total also ranks in a tie for first among defenders, while his 12 power play points are second-most and his 87 shots on goal rank third. The former first-round selection by the LA Kings in the 2021 NHL Draft also leads all AHL rookies in assists and his scoring total is second in the league among first-year skaters. Clarke’s recent seven-game road assist streak from Nov. 4 through Dec. 20 was the second-longest run of its kind in the league this season.
PENALTY KILL BACK ON TRACK: The Reign successfully held San Diego off the scoreboard on the power play Thursday night, ending a run of four games in which they’ve surrendered a man-advantage goal. Ontario’s season-long penalty kill percentage is now at 83.7% which ranks 10th among the 32 AHL teams, but they’ve been much better on the kill when they’re away from home. In 14 road contests, the Reign have only allowed six power play goals from the 50 times they’ve been shorthanded, a successful killing rate of 88% which is third-best in the league. Three of those goals were recently given up in Abbotsford last week before the league’s holiday break.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Henderson (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 27 at Henderson, 4-1 W – Full Recap
Wed., Dec. 6 vs. Henderson, 3-1 W – Full Recap
Wed., Dec. 13 vs. Henderson, 2-3 OTL – Full Recap
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.