REIGN PREVIEW 2/21 – Ontario vs. Abbotsford

WHO: Ontario Reign (23-19-3-2) vs. Abbotsford Canucks (24-17-3-2)
WHEN: Wednesday, February 21 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign return home to open a three-game week against the Abbotsford Canucks on Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. As they prepare for the sixth head-to-head meeting of the season with Abbotsford, Ontario is just two points back of the Canucks in the Pacific Division standings with 51 points.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: After splitting a pair of contests in Tucson last weekend where they outscored the Roadrunners 10-4, the Reign are looking to get back on track in the Inland Empire, where they haven’t won at Toyota Arena since Jan. 6. The Canucks hold fifth place in the standings with 53 points and are coming off a recent split with Calgary which included a 2-1 loss on Saturday before a 3-2 overtime win on Monday. Ontario ranks 10th in the AHL on the defensive side of the puck, allowing 2.89 goals per game through 47 contests. Abbotsford is 14th in the league defensively allowing exactly three goals per night and is 11th on the offensive end by scoring 3.17 goals per game. The Canucks also average the fifth-most shots on goal per contest at 31.3.

LAST TIME OUT: Two late goals from Samuel Fagemo weren’t enough to complete a third period comeback on Saturday night in Arizona, as the Ontario Reign fell to the Tucson Roadrunners by a final score of 3-2 at the Tucson Convention Center. Ontario’s league-leading road penalty kill conceded goals on two of Tucson’s first three power play opportunities. Josh Doan’s three-point night (1-2=3) helped lead the Roadrunners to a bounce-back victory.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign have a record of 2-3-0 against the Canucks this season after finishing with an even series against their divisional opponents from north of the border during 2022-24 when they earned a 4-3-1 outcome from eight contests. Ontario was 3-1-0 against Abbotsford inside Toyota Arena last year and went 1-2-1 in four road contests at the Abbotsford Centre. This season, the Reign have found the back of the net three times on the power play, going 3-for-18 on the man-advantage while allowing five tallies to the Canucks on 18 opportunities. Abbotsford has outshot Ontario by a combined total of 180-14 through the first five matchups. Martin Chromiak (2-1=3) has scored in two of the contests and is tied with Charles Hudon (1-2=3) for the Reign scoring lead in the series, each posting three points.

HICKETTS RETURNS WITH A HELPING HAND: Defender Joe Hicketts was welcomed back into the lineup last weekend in Tucson, his first game action since suffering an injury on Oct. 25 in Coachella Valley. The blueliner from Kamloops, B.C. made a big impact in his return, finishing Friday’s win over Tucson with a plus-3 rating before earning a pair of power play assists in Saturday’s one-goal defeat. Both of Hicketts’ assists helped set up goals by Samuel Fagemo in the third period and increased his season helper total to five in seven games. The 27-year-old is coming off a career year with the Iowa Wild in 2022-23 where he totaled 48 points in 72 games on six goals and 42 helpers that included 24 power play assists which ranked tied for fourth-most in the league.

SCOUTING THE CANUCKS: Abbotsford comes into Wednesday’s game having won just two of their last six outings, which included a split with Calgary last week after falling to Colorado on back-to-back nights in Loveland earlier in the month. Forward Arshdeep Bains leads the team in scoring and was recently called up to make his NHL debut on Tuesday night for Vancouver after earning 39 points in 42 contests on nine goals and 30 assists. Linus Karlsson has also been effective for Abbotsford, scoring 30 points in 34 games on 11 goals and 19 assists. Former Ontario defenseman Christian Wolanin leads the club’s blueliners with 22 points on three goals and 19 helpers. Returning goaltender Arturs Silovs has a 13-10-5 record in 29 appearances, a 2.85 goals-against average, and three shutouts. Rookie Nikita Tolopio has also played in 18 games, posting an 11-7-0 record and a 0.905 save percentage.

WARD-ING OFF OPPONENTS: Forward Taylor Ward has found his offensive game as of late, scoring points in five of his last six contests. Before Saturday’s game in Tucson, Ward had posted points in five straight for the second time in his pro career, which has consisted of 133 games with the Reign. The Kelowna, B.C. native scored his second power play goal of the season against Colorado on Jan. 30 before earning his fifth goal of the year to get Ontario on the board four days later against Calgary. 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 46 of Ontario’s 47 contests and ranks second on the team with a plus-7 rating.

COUNTING CONNAUTON’S ASSISTS: Defenseman Kevin Connauton’s season-high seven-game assist streak ended on Saturday in Tucson. The Edmonton, Alberta native had racked up eight helpers dating back to the last time the team was in Arizona for a weekend series that began Jan. 26. It was the first time the blueliner had scored points in seven straight games since December of 2019 when he had one as a member of the Colorado Eagles that consisted of 13 points on four goals and nine assists. Connauton has 11 helpers with Ontario this season but had only registered three before his recent streak began. The 14th-year pro has found the net once in 37 contests this season, scoring the game-winning goal in Coachella Valley to defeat the Firebirds on Oct. 25.

SPENCE LOANED: The LA Kings loaned defenseman Jordan Spence to the Reign on Wednesday morning. Spence has appeared in 44 NHL games this season for the Kings, registering 16 assists and a plus-5 rating. The third-year pro is no stranger to playing in Ontario, having suited up for 102 contests with the Reign over the past two campaigns. In that time, Spence posted 87 points on eight goals and 79 assists. Spence is expected to make his season debut for Ontario on Wednesday night.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Abbotsford (all times Pacific):
Sun., Oct. 29 vs. Abbotsford, 5-3 W – Full Recap
Wed., Dec. 20 at Abbotsford, 2-5 L –
Full Recap
Thu., Dec. 21 at Abbotsford, 0-6 L –
Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 16 at Abbotsford, 4-3 W –
Full Recap
Wed., Jan. 17 at Abbotsford, 1-2 L – Full Recap
Wed., Feb. 21 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.
Sun., Mar. 3 vs. Abbotsford, 3:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 6 vs. Abbotsford, 7:00 p.m.

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