WHO: Ontario Reign (21-14-3-1) at Tucson Roadrunners (24-12-1-1)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #40
WHEN: Friday, January 26 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tucson Convention Center – Tucson, AZ
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign visit Tucson for the first time during 2023-24 this weekend for a pair of contests against the Roadrunners who enter the two-game series tied for first place in the Pacific Division. Friday’s battle will be the fourth meeting of the season between the teams. The Reign have earned a 1-1-1 record from the three previous matchups which were all played in Ontario at Toyota Arena during November.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is looking to keep pace in a tightly contested division race as they enter the weekend in a tie for fourth place along with the Abbotsford Canucks. The Reign were unable to secure any points from their most recent home outings at Toyota Arena last weekend after losing to Coachella Valley and Bakersfield. Tucson is coming off a series that saw them split a pair of home matchups with the Henderson Silver Knights last weekend, falling 4-2 on Friday before securing a 3-2 victory on Saturday. The Roadrunners have produced impressive records both in front of their home fans and while on the road, going 11-6-0-1 inside the Tucson Convention Center and 13-6-1 away from the desert. The teams are both ranked in the top 10 in the league defensively, with the Reign seventh-best by allowing just 2.77 goals per game while Tucson is ninth, giving up 2.84 goals per outing.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign came up short on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena, falling to the Bakersfield Condors by a final score of 6-2. Hayden Hodgson scored the opening goal of the contest for Ontario and Alex Turcotte added his seventh tally of the season in the second which kept the Reign in the game, but the Condors took control of the contest with four goals in the third period.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: A year ago, Ontario got the better of Tucson, winning five of the eight matchups contested between the two clubs despite being outshot in the series. The Reign outscored the Roadrunners by a 22-19 margin during 2022-23 and produced a 20% success rate on the power play, going 6-for-30 which included a 3-for-10 clip at home in Ontario. Tucson also had 30 power play opportunities in the series, but only converted four of them, giving the Reign an 86.7% penalty kill rate. TJ Tynan led Ontario against the Roadrunners with 10 points on a goal and nine assists a year ago, while Tyler Madden also made an impact for the Reign with six points in the series on three goals and three assists. The teams have been evenly matched through three contests this season, with Tucson outscoring Ontario 8-7. The Reign, who were home in each of those meetings, successfully killed off all eight of Tucson’s power plays.
KILLER INSTINCT: Forward Akil Thomas has continued to be one of Ontario’s best forwards over the past month. The fourth-year forward recently produced a season-high run of six straight games where he earned a point and has racked up five goals and four assists in his last nine outings overall. Thomas came within a game of his career-high when he scored in seven straight during his rookie season in 2021. With 26 points in 39 games this year, the Toronto native has tied his single-season career-high which was also set during 40 contests in his rookie year. He’ll hit game No. 40 when he steps on the ice Friday night in Tucson. He has appeared in each of the Reign’s first 39 games this year and his 13 goals have already surpassed his previous career-high of 11. The LA Kings’ former second-round pick in 2018 has suited up in 132 AHL contests with the Reign during his pro career.
SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS: Tucson comes into Tuesday’s game with a record of 6-4-0 in their last 10 outings and is the most penalized team in the Pacific Division with an average of just under 15 minutes per game. Forward Dylan Guenther is the team’s leading scorer and was named to the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic, but is currently on recall with the Arizona Coyotes after earning 28 points in 29 games with the Roadrunners on 10 goals and 18 assists. Rookie Josh Doan is second on the club with 25 points in 38 games including a team-leading 15 goals. Aku Raty ranks third through 31 games with 23 points on nine goals and 14 assists. Defender Victor Soderstrom leads the team’s blueliners with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists). Former Reign netminder Matt Villalta has starred with his new team, playing in 29 of Tucson’s 38 games and earning a league-high 19 wins with a goals-against average of 2.47 and a save percentage of 0.916. Villalta will also represent Tucson at the league’s All-Star Classic in San Jose.
TURCOTTE TIME: Since returning from injury last week in Abbotsford, forward Alex Turcotte has scored twice in four contests for Ontario to reach career highs with seven goals and 22 points on the season in 27 games. His most recent goal was the tying marker in the second period that gave the Reign a chance in their eventual loss to Bakersfield on Sunday afternoon. The attacker is five contests shy of the most he’s played in a single season during his pro career and has a plus-7 rating which is second-best on the team. In 118 career games with the Reign, Turcotte has accumulated 78 points on 25 goals and 53 assists along with a plus-25 rating and seven power play goals.
ROAD KILLERS: The Reign allowed just their seventh power play goal on the road this season during their most recent outing away from Ontario last week in Abbotsford, which is tied with Toronto for the lowest number in the league away from home this year. Ontario’s road penalty kill is the stingiest in the AHL, discarding 90% of its opponents’ 70 opportunities. Overall, the Reign rank 14th in the league when down a man, killing 82.5% of the 137 times they’ve been shorthanded.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Tucson (all times Pacific):
Wed., Nov. 8 vs. Tucson, 3-4 OTL – Full Recap
Fri., Nov. 10 vs. Tucson, 2-1 W – Full Recap
Tue., Nov. 28 vs. Tucson, 2-3 L – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 26 at Tucson, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 27 at Tucson, 6:00 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 16 at Tucson, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 17 at Tucson, 6:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 20 vs. Tucson, 7:00 p.m.