WHO: Ontario Reign (22-16-3-1) vs. Colorado Eagles (21-14-4-1)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #43
WHEN: Friday, February 2 @ 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 a back-to-back home weekend at Toyota Arena on Friday night with their second consecutive matchup against the Colorado Eagles.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario is looking to keep pace in a tightly contested division race and stay ahead of Colorado, who has won five straight contests. The Eagles are just one point back of the Reign for fifth place in the standings, while Ontario remains a single point away from fourth-place Abbotsford and two back of Calgary, who has a hold of third place. The Reign recently came away with a split from their first trip of the season to Tucson and two contentious meetings with the Roadrunners, winning 5-1 last Friday before a 5-4 defeat on Saturday. Before trekking to Toyota Arena, Colorado managed a sweep of the Henderson Silver Knights last week, winning 3-2 in overtime on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout the following night. The Eagles average of 34 shots on goal per game this season is the highest in the AHL. Ontario is the eighth-best defensive team in the league, allowing 2.86 goals per game from its first 42 matchups.
LAST TIME OUT: The Colorado Eagles secured an early lead by scoring twice in the first period and never looked back in a 6-3 defeat of the Ontario Reign on Tuesday night at Toyota Arena. Defender Cody Haiskanen scored the first AHL goal of his career in a losing effort for the Reign, while forward Samuel Helenius found the back of the net for the second straight game and Taylor Ward picked up a power play goal in the second.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign and Eagles had an even series during the 2022-23 regular season, with the teams evenly splitting their eight clashes 4-4-0, and 2-2-0 on each other’s home ice. Ontario outscored Colorado by the slimmest of margins, posting 25 goals while allowing 24. The Eagles earned wins from the first two clashes in this season’s series with identical 5-3 decisions in Loveland on the first weekend of November, but Ontario battled back the following week with a 4-2 win at Toyota Arena and earned a 5-4 shootout win on Dec. 16. After Friday’s loss for the Reign, Colorado leads the season series with a 3-1-0-1 record. Ontario’s captain TJ Tynan led his team’s offense in last season’s series against his former team with 14 points, a goal and 13 assists. Tynan has racked up six assists for the Reign from the first five outings against Colorado this season, while another former Eagle, Charles Hudon, is leading the way with seven points on five goals and two assists. Colorado’s leading scorers Brad Hunt and Riley Tufte have also had success against Ontario, with Hunt scoring eight points with two goals and six assists, while Tufte has five points on three goals and two helpers.
KILLER INSTINCT: Forward Akil Thomas has continued to be one of Ontario’s best forwards over the past month and comes into Friday’s game on a team-best four-game point streak that has included two goals and four assists. Last weekend against Tucson, Thomas secured his sixth-career three point effort in Friday’s win with a goal and two assists before netting his 15th strike of the season on Saturday. The fourth-year forward also recently produced a season-high run of six straight games with a point and has racked up seven goals and seven assists in his last 12 outings overall. With 31 points in 42 games this year, the Toronto native has set new single season career-highs in goals, assists, overall scoring and games played. In total, the LA Kings’ former second round pick in 2018 has suited up in 135 AHL contests with the Reign during his pro career.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Riley Tufte is the top-scoring forward on the Eagles this season, leading the team’s attackers with 13 goals in 35 games. But with a goal and an assist on Tuesday, defenseman Brad Hunt tied his teammate for the team’s goal-scoring lead and also has a club-high 29 points on the year. Hunt leads the Eagles with 16 assists in 40 games during his second season in Colorado. Defender Jack Ahcan has also had a breakout season with 20 points on three goals and 17 helpers. Returning goaltender Justus Annunen has been a standout performer in his first 22 appearances for a goals-against average of 2.68, securing 13 of the team’s 21 wins. Trent Miner has also made an impact with a 2.51 goals-against average and a 0.913 save percentage in 11 games for the Eagles this season.
HELENIUS AIMS HIGH: Samuel Helenius is on the best offensive run of his pro career thus far, scoring three times in Ontario’s last two games. Helenius recorded a pair of goals just 30 seconds apart from each other during the third period of Saturday’s game in Tucson before returning home Tuesday to score his eighth tally of the year late in the second period against Colorado. With 12 points in 40 games this season on eight goals and four assists, Helenius is two away from his rookie season scoring output during 2022-23 when he totaled 14 points on two goals and 12 assists in 61 contests. The forward from Jarvenpaa, Finland has appeared in 113 games in his AHL career with Ontario after being selected by the LA Kings in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft.
ROAD KILLERS: The Reign have allowed just seven power play goals on the road this season and bumped up their league-leading success rate last weekend by discarding all four of Tucson’s man-advantages. Ontario has given up the lowest number of road power play goals in the league this year (7) for a 90.5% killing rate away from home that leads the AHL. Overall, the Reign rank 11th in the league when down a man, killing 83.0% of the 141 times they’ve been shorthanded.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Colorado (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 3 at Colorado, 3-5 L – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 4 at Colorado, 3-5 L – Full Recap
Sun., Nov. 12 vs. Colorado, 4-2 W – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 16 vs. Colorado, 5-4 W (SO) – Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 30 vs. Colorado, 3-6 L – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 2 vs. Colorado, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 20 at Colorado, 6:05 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 21 at Colorado, 2:05 p.m.