REIGN PREVIEW 2/16 – Ontario at Tucson

WHO: Ontario Reign (22-18-3-2) at Tucson Roadrunners (28-14-2-1)
WHEN: Friday, February 16 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tucson Convention Center – Tucson, AZ
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @JoshSchaeferPxP & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign travel to Tucson for the final time this season for a weekend series with the Roadrunners. The Reign have lost five straight games and have not won since Martin Chromiak’s hat trick against the Roadrunners back on January 26. They’ve fallen to seventh place in the Pacific Division, but are still just a win away from jumping up to fifth. Tucson has lost its last two games but is just three points behind Coachella Valley for first place in the division. Friday’s game is the sixth meeting of the season between the Reign and the Roadrunners. Ontario holds a 2-2-1 record through the first five meetings.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Despite the losing streak, the Reign are still battling in a tightly contested Pacific Division race. Coachella Valley (62 points) and Tucson (59 points) have pulled ahead of the crowd, but the Reign are still within striking distance of other Pacific foes and a win over Tucson on Friday could bump Ontario up a few spots in the division standings. The Reign have continued to be formidable away from home. Their 14 road wins and 29 points each rank sixth-best in the AHL. Additionally, Ontario’s road penalty kill and power play rank first and second in the league respectively. Reinforcements also may join the team in Tucson, as defenseman Joe Hicketts and forward Jacob Doty are both expected to be available for Friday’s contest. Hicketts has missed more than three months with an injury and has not played since October 25 at Coachella Valley. Doty, who has dropped the gloves four times this season, hasn’t appeared since January 16 and was not available for the last two meetings with the Roadrunners.

LAST TIME OUT: Three second period goals weren’t enough for Ontario against Henderson on Friday, as the Silver Knights came from behind to down the Reign 4-3 in a shootout. Tyler Madden, Hayden Hodgson and Charles Hudon scored goals for Ontario, while Kevin Connauton extended his assist streak to six games. Henderson forwards Daniel D’Amato and Sheldon Rempal scored 26 seconds apart in the third period to tie the game, and Jakub Brabenec scored in the shootout to seal the win. It was the Silver Knights’ first shootout win in five tries this season, and the first time in 19 games that Ontario had squandered a lead when leading after two periods.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: A year ago, Ontario got the better of Tucson, winning five of the eight matchups 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 Reign are 2-2-1 against the Roadrunners this season and split a weekend series in Tucson in late January. A Martin Chromiak hat trick propelled the Reign to a thrilling 5-1 win on Friday, January 26. One night later, two Samuel Helenius goals kickstarted a third period comeback, but the Reign ultimately fell 5-4. Four Ontario skaters are averaging more than a point per game against Tucson in the season series, including Charles Hudon (2-5=7), Akil Thomas (4-2=6), TJ Tynan (1-5=6) and Martin Chromiak (4-1=5). Former Reign goaltender Matthew Villalta has been terrific for the Roadrunners this season and has earned three wins in four starts against his former club.

NAUT MESSING AROUND: Defenseman Kevin Connauton enters Friday’s contest on a six-game assist streak that extends back to Ontario’s last trip to Tucson. He has registered 15 shots on goal during that stretch and credited the streak to getting more pucks to the net over the last few weeks. Connauton has been one of Ontario’s most consistent defensemen this season. He’s now up to 10 points (1-9=10) and a plus-3 across 35 games in his first year with the Reign.

SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS: Tucson enters Friday’s game in second place in the Pacific Division and is 6-3-1 over its last ten games, but has not won since the AHL All-Star break. They were swept on the road last week by a struggling Iowa Wild team and now return to Arizona for their first home games since the last time they hosted the Reign in late January. Tucson is averaging a league-high 17.29 penalty minutes per game this season but boasts a top-10 penalty kill. Offensively, the Roadrunners are led by rookie forward Josh Doan, who paces the team with 19 goals and 31 points through 45 games. Forward Nathan Smith leads the team in scoring against the Reign, having recorded four points (1-3=4) in five games against Ontario.

ROAD KILLERS: The Reign have allowed just seven power play goals on the road this season, the fewest in the AHL, and owns a league-best 90.5% kill rate away from home. They’ve killed 25 of the last 26 power plays they’ve faced over their last nine road games, including going a perfect four-for-four during their last two-game trip to Tucson.

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, 4-5 L – Full Recap
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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