REIGN PREVIEW 1/27 – Ontario at Tucson

WHO: Ontario Reign (22-14-3-1) at Tucson Roadrunners (24-13-1-1)
WHEN: Saturday, January 27 @ 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 aim for a win in Tucson for the second time in as many days Saturday night in the second contest of a weekend series at the Tucson Convention Center against the Roadrunners. While Tucson entered Friday night’s battle in a tie for the top spot in the Pacific Division, they were surpassed by Coachella Valley and now sit in second. Ontario is just two points behind the Roadrunners, currently in third place. Saturday’s matchup is the fifth of the season between the teams this season. Ontario has a 2-1-1 record from the first four contests.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is looking to keep pace in a tightly contested division race. The Reign were unable to secure any points from their most recent home outings at Toyota Arena last weekend, losing to Coachella Valley and Bakersfield. Tucson came into the weekend after a recent home series split with the Henderson Silver Knights, falling 4-2 last Friday before securing a 3-2 victory the following night. The Roadrunners have produced impressive records both in front of their home fans and while on the road, going 11-7-0-1 inside the Tucson Convention Center and 13-6-1 away from the desert. The teams have both been better on the defensive side of the puck this season, with the Reign fifth-best by allowing just 2.72 goals per game while Tucson is 12th in the AHL, giving up 2.90 goals per outing.

LAST TIME OUT: Led by Martin Chromiak and Charles Hudon who both totaled four-point nights, the Ontario Reign opened their weekend with a 5-1 win over the Tucson Roadrunners Friday night at the Tucson Convention Center. Chromiak scored three times to record his second-career hat trick for Ontario and was named the No. 1 star of the game. Erik Portillo made the start in between the pipes for the Reign and secured the victory with 41 saves, including 15 in the first period to help stake Ontario to an early lead. Akil Thomas was also a major factor in the team’s scoring effort during the win with a goal and two assists.

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. 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 four contests this season, with Ontario earning points from three outings with a 2-1-1 record while outscoring Tucson 12-9. The Reign have been a perfect 11-for-11 on the penalty kill in the series. After a big offensive night on Friday, Ontario has four skaters averaging more than a point per game against the Roadrunners this season including Charles Hudon (1-5=6), Martin Chromiak (4-1=5), Akil Thomas (3-2=5) and TJ Tynan (1-4=5).

KILLER INSTINCT: Forward Akil Thomas has continued to be one of Ontario’s best forwards over the past month and secured his sixth-career three-point effort during Friday’s win with a goal and two assists. The fourth-year forward also recently produced a season-high run of six straight games with a point and has racked up six goals and six assists in his last 10 outings overall. With 29 points in 40 games this year, the Toronto native has set a new single-season career-high in scoring. When he steps on the ice Saturday night in Tucson, Thomas will also have a new high mark with 41 games played on the year. He has appeared in each of the Reign’s first 40 contests and his 14 goals have already surpassed his previous career-high of 11. In total, the LA Kings’ former second-round pick in 2018 has suited up in 133 AHL contests with the Reign during his pro career.

SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS: Tucson comes into Saturday’s game with a record of 5-5-0 in their last 10 outings and is the most penalized team in the Pacific Division with an average of more than 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 39 games including a team-leading 15 goals. Aku Raty ranks third through 32 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 30 of Tucson’s 39 games and earning a league-high 19 wins with a goals-against average of 2.56 and a save percentage of 0.913. Villalta will also represent Tucson at the league’s All-Star Classic in San Jose.

CHROMIAK CUES THE HATS: Martin Chromiak secured his second-career hat trick in Friday’s win over Tucson, scoring goals in each period to help Ontario secure a win. Two of the Illava, Slovakia native’s tallies came via the power play, and he also added a third period assist on a man-advantage strike by Charles Hudon to record the four-point effort of his career. Chromiak’s second hat trick came just after the anniversary of his first, which he produced back on Jan. 21, 2023, in Ontario against Coachella Valley. The points gave the 21-year-old an even 20 for the season on 11 goals and nine assists.

ROAD KILLERS: The Reign have allowed just seven power play goals on the road this season and bumped up their league-leading success rate on Friday by discarding all three of Tucson’s man-advantages. Ontario is tied with Toronto for the lowest number of road power play goals allowed this year, while the Reign’s 90.4% killing rate away from home leads the AHL. Overall, the Reign rank 13th in the league when down a man, killing 82.9% of the 140 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, 5-1 W – Full Recap
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.

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