WHO: Ontario Reign (16-10-3-1) vs. San Jose Barracuda (11-14-4-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #31
WHEN: Friday, January 5 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign begin the 2024 portion of their schedule with a three-game series against the San Jose Barracuda that begins Friday night at Toyota Arena. Friday’s contest will be the first of the season between the two teams in Ontario. The Reign swept the only previous meetings contested between the two clubs with 3-0 and 4-2 wins in San Jose during Thanksgiving Weekend on Nov. 24-25.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This weekend’s matchup will consist of San Jose’s top-10 offense, which has averaged 3.34 goals per game from their first 29 outings, against Ontario’s standout defense which is sixth-best in the league at 2.8 goals surrendered per game. The Reign are in the middle of a tightly-contested top-half of the Pacific Division with 36 points, currently tied with Coachella Valley for fifth place despite being just five points out of first. San Jose has struggled through the first half of the year, earning 26 points from 29 games which has them sitting in ninth among the 10-team table. Ontario will play its first game of the season without rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke, who was recently recalled by the LA Kings on Wednesday after being named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for January. Previously, Clarke appeared in 30 games and posted 32 points on seven goals and 25 assists.
LAST TIME OUT: After being pulled from Saturday’s game early with five goals allowed in the first period, Henderson Silver Knights goaltender Isaiah Saville returned and got revenge on the Ontario Reign Sunday, stopping 24 shots to record his first shutout of the 2023-24 season in a 3-0 contest at Toyota Arena. Henderson got goals from Jonas Rondbjerg, Grigori Denisenko and Byron Froese to even the weekend’s back-to-back home and home series. Erik Portillo kept the Reign close the entire way at the other end of the ice, stopping 28 shots in a losing effort.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign picked up points in five of their contests against San Jose last season, finishing with a 3-3-1-1 record against the Barracuda and an even number of goals for and goals against, scoring and allowing 25 in the series. Ontario was 2-2-0 at home inside Toyota Arena and posted a 1-1-1-1 record in four contests during the inaugural season of Tech CU Arena. The Reign scored six times on the man-advantage against the Barracuda last season while San Jose netted four power play goals. Ontario was led by TJ Tynan and Lias Andersson in last season’s series against the Barracuda, who each had seven points in the eight matchups between the two teams. Tyler Madden scored six times in the series to lead Ontario, while Taylor Ward and Jacob Moverare both accounted for six points on two goals and four assists. In the two wins for Ontario at SJ in November, Samuel Fagemo led the way with four points on three goals and an assist, while Tynan and Akil Thomas each had a goal and two helpers.
FAGEMO’S FEROCIOUS RETURN: Forward Samuel Fagemo has dominated since returning to the Reign lineup last month, posting 24 points in his first 19 games with Ontario on 13 goals and 11 assists. Fagemo has been on the scoresheet in 16 of his 19 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 170 career AHL games with Ontario, Fagemo has 118 points on 73 goals and 45 assists.
SCOUTING THE BARRACUDA: San Jose comes into this weekend’s series after splitting a home-and-home series with Bakersfield last weekend and defeating Tucson at home Wednesday night by a 6-4 score. The Barracuda were the first team out of the postseason in the pacific last spring with an eighth place finish and haven’t been able to improve their fortunes thus far this season as they currently sit in ninth place with 26 points. Forward Danil Gushchin, who posted 45 points as a rookie last year, leads the team this season with 28 points in 28 games on 11 goals and 17 assists. Cole Cassels has pitched in with 22 points on four goals and 18 assists, while Nathan Todd has 20 points on seven goals and 13 helpers. Defender Leon Gawanke leads the team’s blueliners with 25 on seven goals and 18 assists. Goaltender Magnus Chrona has led the way in net with 13 appearances and holds a 0.898 save percentage, while Eetu Makiniemi has seen action in eight contests and has a 4-3-0 record with one shutout.
STAYING THE COURSE: The Reign have played well with leads this season, posting lopsided winning records in all games where they’ve had an advantage. Ontario has won 13 of the 17 games in which they’ve scored first, going 13-1-2-1 to secure a point in all but one contest when they’ve had the initial lead. When they’ve gone into the first intermission with a lead on the scoreboard, Ontario has a 7-0-1 record, and the Reign are perfect when they’ve led after 40 minutes with a perfect 13-0-0 mark.
PENALTY KILL BACK ON TRACK: The Reign have successfully held their opponent off the scoreboard on the power play for three consecutive outings since they returned from the league’s holiday break last week. They first denied San Diego on the man-advantage last Thursday, ending a run of four games in which they had surrendered a man-advantage goal. Then followed that success up in the weekend home-and-home series with Henderson, discarding all three of the Silver Knights’ chances on both Saturday and Sunday. Ontario’s season-long penalty kill percentage is now at 84.6% which ranks seventh 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 before they got to the holiday break.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. San Jose (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 24 at San Jose, 3-0 W – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 25 at San Jose, 4-2 W – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 5 vs. San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 6 vs. San Jose, 6:00 p.m.
Tue., Jan. 9 at San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Tue., Feb. 27 vs. San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 27 at San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 6 vs. San Jose, 6:00 p.m.