REIGN PREVIEW 12/31 – Ontario vs. Henderson

WHO: Ontario Reign (16-9-3-1) vs. Henderson Silver Knights (15-13-1-2)
WHEN: Sunday, December 31 @ 5:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign will play their final game of 2023 on Sunday night at Toyota Arena by closing out a home-and-home series with the Henderson Silver Knights. After a 7-1 victory on Saturday at The Dollar Loan Center, Ontario is now 3-0-1 against the Silver Knights in four previous matchups this season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Saturday’s win gave Ontario some breathing room between themselves and Henderson in the Pacific Division standings, with three points separating the two clubs. The Reign have banked 36 points from their first 29 games, while the Silver Knights have 33 points after 31 contests. Ontario is locked in a tie for third place with Abbotsford and is four points behind Tucson for second place. The Reign have been led on the offensive side of the puck by rookie defender Brandt Clarke who has 32 points on the year with seven goals and 25 assists.

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign produced their biggest offensive output of the season Saturday night in a 7-1 win over the Henderson Silver Knights at The Dollar Loan Center which included a five-goal first period. Goaltender Jacob Ingham stopped 39 shots in his first AHL start of the season to earn the victory. 13 of Ontario’s skaters registered a point in the winning effort, including Brandt Clarke who picked up three points with a goal and two assists for his second consecutive multi-point outing, as well as Akil Thomas who also posted a goal and two helpers. Wyatte Wylie added his first AHL goal of the year and both Charles Hudon and Francesco Pinelli each had a goal and an assist.

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 on Dec. 13 by a 3-2 final before Saturday’s 7-1 win. Overall, the Reign have outscored the Silver Knights by a 16-6 margin in the series. In the four contests, Henderson has held a 113-99 edge in shots on goal. Ontario has fared better on special teams in the series, scoring twice on the man advantage (2-for-9, 22.2%) while allowing only one strike on the penalty kill and discarding nine of Henderson’s 10 opportunities (90%). Brandt Clarke has led all Reign skaters against the Silver Knights this season with eight points on two goals and six assists, while forwards Akil Thomas (2-3=5) and Samuel Fagemo (1-4=5) have each totaled five points. 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 24 points in his first 18 games with Ontario on 13 goals and 11 assists. Fagemo has been on the scoresheet in 16 of his 18 AHL contests, scoring twice on three different occasions and contributing seven 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 169 career AHL games with Ontario, Fagemo has 118 points on 73 goals and 45 assists.

SCOUTING THE SILVER KNIGHTS: Henderson has lost its last two games, falling 3-1 to Bakersfield on Thursday before Saturday’s home defeat to the Reign. Before the league’s holiday break last Saturday, they defeated San Jose 3-2. 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 29 of the team’s 31 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 3-2-0 record in five appearances with a goals-against average of 2.53 and a 0.91 save percentage. Jesper Vikman has also played well in net and has a 3-0-0 in his first five appearances with a 2.62 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 29 games, Clarke’s 32 points on seven goals and 25 assists are the most of any blueliner in the league. Clarke’s assist total also ranks second among defenders, while his 12 power play points are also second-most and his 92 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 that spanned 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. They followed that success up on Saturday in Henderson, discarding all three of the Silver Knights’ chances. Ontario’s season-long penalty kill percentage is now at 84.2% which ranks eighth among the 32 AHL teams, but they’ve been much better on the kill when they’re away from home. In 15 road contests, the Reign have only allowed six power play goals from the 53 times they’ve been shorthanded, a successful killing rate of 88.7% which is second-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, 7-1 W – Full Recap
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.

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