WHO: Ontario Reign (19-11-3-1) at Calgary Wranglers (22-9-3-0)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #35
WHEN: Friday, January 12 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Scotiabank Saddledome – Calgary, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: After coming up short in the series opener Thursday night, the Ontario Reign will look to even their series with the Calgary Wranglers on Friday in the second game of a back-to-back at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The loss was the first time Ontario suffered a regulation defeat to the Wranglers this season after taking three points from its first two meetings with Calgary in November.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Reign came into the series after three consecutive wins over the San Jose Barracuda in a six-day span that moved them into a tie for second place in the Pacific Division standings. Thursday’s result pushed first-place Calgary farther ahead in the top spot, now with a five-point gap between them and both Ontario and Tucson, who are even for second. The Wranglers boast the top defense in the Western Conference, allowing an average of just 2.56 goals from their first 34 outings this season. However, the Wranglers allow the fourth-most shots per game in the league, surrendering 32.2 on average. Ontario’s defense is no slouch either, ranking fifth at 2.71 goals per game with only five more given up than Calgary in the same number of outings. The teams are also similarly matched up on offense, with the Wranglers scoring an average of 3.18 goals per night, while the Reign have posted 3.06. Calgary has made its living in the second period this season, outscoring opponents by a 39-26 margin.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign (19-11-3-1) erased a first period two-goal deficit but fell short to the Calgary Wranglers (22-9-3-0) by a score of 3-2 Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome after surrendering a late strike to forward Mark Rassell in the third period. Samuel Fagemo scored both of Ontario’s tallies in the game on the power play and is now tied for the AHL’s goal-scoring lead with 20 despite playing in only 23 of the Reign’s 33 contests this season. He also moved into first in the league with nine man-advantage goals.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Although the Reign struggled against the Wranglers during 2022-23 when Calgary ended with the best regular season record in the league (51-17-3-1, 106 points), Ontario managed to claim three points from its first two-game series of the year against Calgary in November. The Wranglers won seven of the eight matchups during 2022-23 while doubling Ontario’s goal total (28-14). Calgary scored eight times on the man-advantage in the series, while the Reign managed four power play goals from 31 opportunities (12.9%). Goaltender Dustin Wolf was 7-0-1 against the Reign while playing every minute of action in the series with a save percentage of 0.945. Ontario managed seven goals against Wolf in the first two matchups at Toyota Arena this season, but the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player bounced back on Thursday to earn the win and lower his goals-against average against the Reign to 2.94 on the season. Samuel Fagemo leads Ontario with five points in the series on four goals and one assist.
FAGEMO PILING UP POINTS: Forward Samuel Fagemo followed up his first-career four-point game Saturday with another three points on Tuesday in San Jose and added a pair of tallies Thursday in Calgary to pull himself into a tie for the AHL’s goal-scoring lead. Fagemo has now totaled 20 goals and 33 points in 23 games this season, surpassing his total from last year when he managed 32 points in 56 games. The attacker has been on the scoresheet in 19 of his appearances, scoring multiple goals on six different occasions and contributing 10 multi-point games. In addition, Fagemo’s nine power play goals are the most of any skater in the league and his average of 1.43 points per game is the highest among players that have played in 20 or more 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 174 career AHL games with the Reign, Fagemo has 127 points on 80 goals and 47 assists.
SCOUTING THE WRANGLERS: Rookie Forward Matt Coronado, who was recently named to the AHL All-Star Classic roster on Wednesday, leads the Wranglers with 28 points in 26 games this season on 12 goals and 16 assists. Coronado’s goal total is tops on the team, while forward Emilio Pettersen is second in scoring with 26 points and a club-high 19 assists. Ben Jones has also chipped in with 23 points in 34 games on 11 goals and 12 helpers. Defender Jonathan Aspirot paces the blueliners with 14 points on two goals and 12 assists while fellow d-man Brady Lyle has 13 points on five goals and eight assists. While goaltender Dustin Wolf has been excellent as always, going 16-5-1 in 22 games with a 0.930 save percentage, Oscar Dansk has also been great in between the pipes with a 2.47 goals-against average and a 0.922 save percentage in 12 appearances.
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 16 of the 20 games in which they’ve scored first, going 16-1-2-1 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 9-0-1 record, and the Reign are perfect when they’ve led after 40 minutes with a 16-0-0 mark.
KILLER INSTINCT: Forward Akil Thomas is on one of the best runs of his career, scoring a goal in each of Ontario’s three consecutive wins over San Jose before adding a power play assist on Thursday to give him a season-high four-game point streak. The fourth-year attacker has racked up eight points from his last six games, including a season-high three-point effort in the Reign’s 7-1 win at Henderson on Dec. 30. Thomas had a goal and an assist last Friday in Ontario before scoring on the power play in Saturday’s win and netting a shorthanded goal on Tuesday in San Jose. The Toronto native has appeared in each of the Reign’s first 34 games this year, tying his career-high with 11 goals. Thomas’ 22 points are four back of his best number as a pro when he finished his rookie season in 2021 with 26 in 40 contests. The LA Kings’ former second-round pick in 2018 has appeared in 127 AHL contests with the Reign in his pro career.
MAKING THE MO’ST OF IT: Defenseman Jacob Moverare has been a welcome addition to the lineup for the Reign since returning from a call-up to the LA Kings that lasted for most of December. Since he rejoined Ontario’s lineup on Dec. 28, the blueliner has posted assists in six of his seven appearances, totaling eight helpers and a plus-8 rating with 11 shots on goal. Moverare saw time in five contests with the Kings during his recall, his first NHL games of the year. Overall, the Ostersund, Sweden native has 13 assists in 23 appearances with the Reign this season after playing in 62 games a year ago and scoring 26 points on four goals and 22 assists.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Calgary (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 17 vs. Calgary, 4-5 L (SO) – Full Recap
Sun., Nov. 19 vs. Calgary, 4-0 W – Full Recap
Thu., Jan. 11 at Calgary, 2-3 L – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 12 at Calgary, 6 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 3 vs. Calgary, 6 p.m.
Sun., Mar. 10 at Calgary, 5 p.m.
Mon., Mar. 11 at Calgary, 6 p.m.
Fri., Mar. 22 vs. Calgary, 7 p.m.