REIGN PREVIEW 2/17 – Ontario at Tucson

WHO: Ontario Reign (23-18-3-2) at Tucson Roadrunners (28-15-2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, February 17 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tucson Convention Center – Tucson, AZ
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @JoshSchaeferPxP & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign take the ice at the Tucson Convention Center on Saturday night for their final road meeting against the Roadrunners. Steven Santini’s first career hat trick helped the Reign snap their five-game losing streak on Friday night in an 8-1 victory, which vaulted the team back into fifth place in the Pacific Division. Tucson has now lost three consecutive games but remains just three points out of first place in the division. Saturday’s game is the seventh meeting of the season between the Reign and the Roadrunners. Ontario holds a 3-2-1 record through the first six meetings.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Reign are looking to build off their eight-goal performance on Friday, which was their highest offensive output of the season. Ontario continues to battle in a tightly-contested Pacific Division race after snapping their skid. 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. Joe Hicketts and Jacob Doty have returned to Ontario’s lineup. Hicketts had been out for more than three months and immediately made an impact in his return, earning a plus-three rating on Friday. Despite some recent struggles, the Reign continue to be formidable away from home. Their 15 road wins and 31 points each rank within the top-six in the AHL. Additionally, Ontario’s road penalty kill and power play rank first and second in the league respectively.

LAST TIME OUT: Four first period goals and Steven Santini’s first AHL hat trick paved the way to an 8-1 victory over the Roadrunners on Friday night. Thirteen different skaters recorded at least one point for the Reign, while six registered multi-point games, including TJ Tynan and Jacob Moverare who each tallied three assists. Kevin Connauton nabbed two assists in the win to extend his point streak to seven straight games. Erik Portillo made 23 saves on 24 shots and earned his 13th win of the season. The Reign went 1-for-4 on the power play and killed both Tucson opportunities. Josh Doan scored the lone goal for the Roadrunners to extend his team-leading total to 20 goals on the season.

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 3-2-1 against the Roadrunners this season and have won two of the last three meetings between the two sides in Tucson. 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 (2-7=9), TJ Tynan (1-8=9), Akil Thomas (5-2=7) and Steven Santini (3-3=6). 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 but is unavailable tonight due to his recent recall by the Arizona Coyotes. He made his NHL debut for Arizona on Friday night at Mullett Arena in Tempe.

WHEN THE SANTS COMES MARCHING IN: Defenseman Steven Santini scored his first three goals of the season on Friday night to complete his first career hat trick. With those three goals, Santini tied his career-high for goals in a single season. He’s now one of Ontario’s leading scorers in the season series against Tucson (3-3=6) and has recorded five of those points in the last two meetings.

NAUT MESSING AROUND: Defenseman Kevin Connauton enters Saturday’s contest on a seven-game assist streak that extends back to Ontario’s last trip to Tucson. He has registered 8 assists and 18 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 12 points (1-11=12) and a plus-6 rating across 36 games in his first year with the Reign.

SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS: Tucson enters Saturday’s game in second place in the Pacific Division and is 5-4-1 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 17.37 penalty minutes per game this season but boasts a top-11 penalty kill. Offensively, the Roadrunners are led by rookie forward Josh Doan, who paces the team with 20 goals and 32 points through 46 games. His goal on Friday night vaulted him to the top of Tucson’s scoring list against Ontario, now with four points in six games against the Reign.

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 90.8% kill rate away from home. They’ve killed 27 of the last 28 power plays they’ve faced over their last ten road games, included going a perfect six-for-six in their last three road games against the Roadrunners.

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, 8-1 W – Full Recap
Sat., Feb. 17 at Tucson, 6:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 20 vs. Tucson, 7:00 p.m.


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