WHO: Ontario Reign (22-18-3-1) vs. Henderson Silver Knights (20-20-2-4)
WHAT: AHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME #45
WHEN: Friday, February 9 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: Returning from the AHL’s All-Star Break, the Ontario Reign host the Henderson Silver Knights on Friday at Toyota Arena for their lone game of the weekend. In five previous meetings against Henderson during the 2023-24 season, the Reign have produced a 3-1-1 record, earning seven points in the standings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Henderson enters Friday’s game within striking distance of the Reign in the Pacific Division standings, currently holding a tie with Bakersfield for seventh place and the final playoff spot in the postseason with less than 30 games remaining on the schedule for both clubs. Ontario has dropped its last four contests, three of which have come at home. The Silver Knights have been a good team during overtime, winning five of their seven contests that have been decided in 3-on-3 play. But Henderson has gotten blanked in the shootout, losing all four of its games decided in the skill session. Ontario has been at its best in the second period of games, outscoring opponents 50-44 in the middle frame this season.
LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign entered the third period in a 1-1 tie with the Calgary Wranglers but were unable to get any other shots past goaltender Dustin Wolf and fell by a final score of 3-1 on Saturday night at Toyota Arena. Taylor Ward netted the lone Reign tally in the contest for his fifth goal of the season, while defender Kevin Connauton recorded an assist for the fifth consecutive game and goaltender Erik Portillo turned out 27 shots in a losing effort.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario has earned multi-goal victories in all three of their wins over Henderson this season, winning 4-1 on Oct. 27 and 3-1 on Dec. 6 before a 7-1 rout on Dec. 30, but they were shut out 3-0 in their most recent clash with the Silver Knights on New Year’s Eve in Ontario. Overall, the Reign have outscored the Silver Knights by a 16-9 margin in the series. Henderson has held a 144-123 edge in shots on goal in the five contests. Ontario has fared better on special teams in the series, scoring twice on the man-advantage (2-for-14, 14.3%) while allowing only one strike on the penalty kill and discarding 13 of Henderson’s 14 opportunities (92.9%). Brandt Clarke has led all Reign skaters against the Silver Knights this season with eight points on two goals and six assists, while forwards Akil Thomas (2-3=5) and Samuel Fagemo (1-4=5) have each totaled five points. A year ago, Ontario posted a record of 4-4-0 from eight contests against Henderson, which included a 2-2-0 mark at each team’s venue.
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 with seven goals and eight assists in his last 14 games. By adding an assist in the Reign’s final game before the break on Saturday, he has now registered points in five out of his last six outings. Thomas has set new single season career-highs in goals (15), assists (17), overall scoring (32) and games played (44) this season. In total, the LA Kings’ former second round pick in 2018 has suited up in 137 AHL contests with the Reign during his pro career.
SCOUTING THE SILVER KNIGHTS: Henderson comes into Friday’s matchup on the heels of splitting a home series with the Iowa wild last weekend, winning the first contest 8-1 in blowout fashion before falling 3-2 the following evening. The Silver Knights are led offensively by forward Grigori Denisenko, who recently appeared at the AHL’s All-Star Classic in San Jose earlier this week. Denisenko has a team-high 38 points on 13 goals and 25 assists while appearing in 42 of the team’s 46 games. Former Reign forward Sheldon Rempal has been on a tear, scoring seven goals in his last four games including the first four-goal game in Silver Knights history on Jan. 17 against Coachella Valley. The performance earned him a call-up to the Vegas Golden Knights where he netted his first-career NHL goal. Jiri Patera has spent the most time in Henderson’s crease this season, playing in 16 games while earning a 0.905 save percentage and a record of 7-6-3. Since returning from injury, goaltender Isaiah Saville has posted a 4-5-1 record in 10 appearances with a goals-against average of 2.57 and a 0.917 save percentage.
WARD-ING OFF OPPONENTS: Forward Taylor Ward has found his offensive game as of late, scoring points in three straight contests for the first time this season and the third time in his AHL career, which has consisted of 130 games with the Reign. The Kelowna, B.C. native scored his second power play goal of the season last Tuesday against Colorado before earning a primary assist on Brandt Clarke’s second period strike Friday and his fifth goal of the season to get Ontario on the board Saturday night. Ward’s five goals on the year are four behind the total he achieved during his rookie season when he suited up in 71 of the Reign’s 72 outings. So far in 2023-24, the attacker has appeared in 43 of Ontario’s 44 previous contests and ranks second on the team with a plus-6 rating.
KEVIN THE KILLER: Defenseman Kevin Connauton has been on the scoresheet in five straight games for the Reign, posting assists in each contest from the back end. It’s the first five-game run for the defender since December of 2019, when he managed a seven-game streak that consisted of 13 points on four goals and nine assists as a member of the Colorado Eagles. Connauton has eight helpers with Ontario this season but had only registered three before his current streak began. The Edmonton, Alberta native has found the net once in 34 contests this season, scoring the game-winning goal in Coachella Valley to defeat the Firebirds on Oct. 25.
2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Henderson (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 27 at Henderson, 4-1 W – Full Recap
Wed., Dec. 6 vs. Henderson, 3-1 W – Full Recap
Wed., Dec. 13 vs. Henderson, 2-3 OTL – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 30 at Henderson, 7-1 W – Full Recap
Sun., Dec. 31 vs. Henderson, 0-3 L – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 9 vs. Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 3 at Henderson, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 13 at Henderson, 7:00 p.m.