REIGN PREVIEW 2/24 – Ontario at San Diego

WHO: Ontario Reign (24-19-3-3) at San Diego Gulls (18-20-8-0)
WHEN: Saturday, February 24 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Pechanga Arena – San Diego, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign travel to San Diego on Saturday for their fifth showdown of the season with the Gulls at Pechanga Arena. In their 50th game of the 2023-24 season, the Reign will look for some revenge on San Diego, a team they’ve gone just 1-2-1 against in four previous matchups this year.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario enters Saturday night’s contest in a tie with Bakersfield for sixth place in the Pacific Division, each with 54 points, three back of fifth-place Abbotsford. San Diego sits in ninth place in the 10-team table with 44 points, 10 back of the cut line for the final spot in the postseason. The Reign rank eighth in the AHL on the defensive side of the puck, allowing 2.84 goals per game. San Diego has struggled offensively, averaging the lowest total of shots on goal per game in the league (26.5). But the Gulls have found success on the power play by scoring on 20.7% of their opportunities this season, with an impressive 29% success rate on the road. Ontario’s road power play has also been a standout, scoring on 25.6% of their chances.

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign tied Friday’s game with less than a minute remaining in regulation and won in the final minute of overtime on a goal by Jacob Moverare, securing a 2-1 victory over the Coachella Valley Firebirds at Toyota Arena. Aaron Dell stopped 33 of the 34 shots that came his way to earn his first win as a member of the Reign, while Samuel Fagemo netted the tying tally in the waning moments of the third period.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario was at its best against San Diego last season, earning a record of 6-1-1 from eight matchups against one of their SoCal rivals while securing 13 of a possible 16 points in the standings. In the first four meetings this season the Reign’s fortunes changed, suffering back-to-back losses to open the year before earning a 3-2 win in the third outing and coming up short in overtime by a 4-3 final in the most recent matchup on Dec. 28. Ontario outshot the Gulls by a combined margin of 141-124 in the four contests, despite losing three. They also earned an average of five power play opportunities per game, with 20 total in the series from which they’ve scored four times. Brandt Clarke led the Reign in the four previous meetings with two goals and two assists, while Charles Hudon totaled three points on a goal and two assists and Joe Hicketts added three helpers.

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 last Friday’s win over Tucson with a plus-3 rating before earning a pair of power play assists the following night. Hicketts then followed that up with another helper on Tyler Madden’s goal Wednesday night against Abbotsford and the primary assist on Samuel Fagemo’s tying strike Friday to increase his season total to seven assists in nine games along with a plus-8 rating. 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 GULLS: Forward Andrew Agozzino leads San Diego in scoring with 39 points on 13 goals and 26 assists while suiting up in all 46 of their games this season. Pavol Regenda has found the back of the net a team-high 16 times, while Glenn Gawdin has posted 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists. Rookie blueliner Olen Zellweger is the team’s top-scoring defender with 34 points in 41 games on 10 goals and 24 assists, while veteran Trevor Carrick is just behind him with 30 points (5-25=30). Goaltender Tomas Suchanek has been solid in net since joining the club, posting an 11-3-3 record in 17 appearances with a 2.34 goals-against average and a 0.927 save percentage. Calle Clang has also been in goal for 20 games and has a 6-9-4 record.

MOVERARE STRIKES AT THE RIGHT TIME: Defender Jacob Moverare scored the first overtime game-winner of his AHL career on Friday with just his second goal of the 2023-24 season. Both of Moverare’s goals have come in home games against Coachella Valley, while the blueliner leads Ontario with a +14 rating in 33 appearances this season. The strike was also Moverare’s first game-winner of any kind since a clash against San Diego to begin the 2021-22 season on Oct. 16, 2021, at Toyota Arena. In 151 career AHL games with Ontario, Moverare has totaled 10 goals and 69 points.

PORTILLO PROVIDING PATIENCE IN NET: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo has continued to impress this season and has allowed just a single goal in back-to-back starts over the past week against Tucson and Abbotsford. In 25 games this season, Portillo has allowed only 60 tallies against for a goals-against average of 2.47 while accounting for a 0.920 save percentage and two shutouts. His save percentage ranks sixth among qualified netminders this season, while his goals-against number is 13th in the league.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. San Diego (all times Pacific):
Fri., Oct. 13 vs. San Diego, 1-4 L – Full Recap
Sun., Oct. 15 vs. San Diego, 4-6 L –
Full Recap
Fri., Oct. 20 at San Diego, 3-2 W –
Full Recap
Thu., Dec. 28 at San Diego, 3-4 L – Full Recap
Sat., Feb. 24 at San Diego, 6:00 p.m.
Fri., Mar. 1 vs. San Diego, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 13 at San Diego, 7:00 p.m.
Fri., Apr. 12 vs. San Diego, 7:00 p.m.

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