REIGN PREVIEW 2/27 – Ontario vs. San Jose

WHO: Ontario Reign (25-19-3-3) vs. San Jose Barracuda (17-25-8-1)
WHEN: Tuesday, February 27 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: KVCR & Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: To close out the schedule for February, the Ontario Reign host the San Jose Barracuda at Toyota Arena on Tuesday night. After back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday and having claimed points from three straight, the Reign will look to extend their run of improved play and keep their record unblemished against San Jose this season (5-0-0).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario enters Tuesday night’s contest in a tie with Bakersfield for sixth place in the Pacific Division, each with 56 points and three back of fifth-place Abbotsford. San Jose sits at the bottom of the 10-team table with 43 points, 13 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 2.82 goals per game. San Jose is 10th in the league offensively with an average of 3.2 goals per game but ranks last on defense with 186 tallies allowed this year which is the most of any AHL club. Ontario is among the top 10 in the league’s power play rankings, scoring on 20.2% of their man-advantage opportunities this season (9th).

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign held off a third period charge and secured their second win in as many days on Saturday, defeating the San Diego Gulls by a 3-2 score at Pechanga Arena. Erik Portillo made 31 saves in net to secure the victory and improve to 14-8-3 in 26 appearances during his rookie season, while Samuel Fagemo, Martin Chromiak and Charles Hudon each scored goals and both Joe Hicketts and TJ Tynan earned a pair of assists.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign have won all five matchups between them and the Barracuda this season, including two shutout performances. Ontario swept the first two meetings in San Jose with 3-0 and 4-2 wins at Tech CU Arena during Thanksgiving Weekend on Nov. 24-25 and then won the last three in five days during the beginning of January with 2-0 and 5-4 wins at Toyota Arena before a 4-1 victory in the most recent meeting on Jan. 9. The Reign picked up points in five of their contests against San Jose last season, finishing with a 3-3-1-1 record against the Barracuda and had an even number of goals for and goals against, scoring and allowing 25 in the series. TJ Tynan led the way last season with seven points in the eight matchups between the two teams. This year Samuel Fagemo has dominated the first five games, scoring 11 points on eight goals and three assists including a hat trick in the most recent matchup in Ontario on Jan. 6. Akil Thomas has also been a standout for Ontario this season with seven points on four goals and three helpers.

HICKETTS RETURNS WITH A HELPING HAND: Defender Joe Hicketts was welcomed back into the lineup earlier this month in Tucson, his first game action since suffering an injury Oct. 25 in Coachella Valley. The blueliner from Kamloops, B.C. made an immediate impact, finishing his first weekend with two assists and a plus-3 rating. 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, then posted another pair of helpers on goals by Fagemo and Martin Chromiak on Saturday night in San Diego. In just 10 total games this season, Hicketts has racked up nine assists along with a plus-10 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 BARRACUDA: San Jose comes into Tuesday’s matchup after dropping a pair of home contests to Abbotsford last weekend, losing 5-4 in a shootout on Friday before a 5-2 defeat on Saturday. Forward Nathan Todd leads the team with 42 points in 50 games this season on 16 goals and 26 assists. Cole Cassels is second in scoring with 38 points on seven goals and 31 helpers, while Danil Gushchin has earned 37 points on 14 goals and 23 assists. Rookie Ethan Cardwell has also chipped in with 15 goals, one shy of Todd for the team-high. Defender Shakir Mukhamadullin, who represented the Cuda earlier this month when the club hosted the league’s All-Star Classic, is the top-scoring blueliner on the team with 27 points on six goals and 21 assists. Goaltender Magnus Chrona has played the most in net of any goaltender, appearing in 23 contests and earning a 0.894 save percentage.

HUDON HITS 40: Forward Charles Hudon scored his 17th goal of the year on Saturday in San Diego to record his 40th point of the 2023-24 season. It’s the third consecutive year he’s reached the plateau and the sixth time overall during his AHL career. It continued a hot streak for the Alma, Quebec native, who has scored points in five of his last six games for Ontario, including seven points on two goals and five assists. While his goal pace is behind the 29 that he put up with Colorado last season, Hudon’s assist numbers are up and he’s on pace for the highest total he’s had since his rookie year when he totaled 38 with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15. Eight of Hudon’s 17 goals this season have come while Ontario has been on the man-advantage.

PORTILLO PROVIDING PATIENCE IN NET: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo has continued to impress this season and has allowed just four goals in his past three starts against Tucson, Abbotsford and San Diego. In 26 games this season, Portillo has allowed only 62 tallies against for a goals-against average of 2.45 while accounting for a 0.921 save percentage and two shutouts. His save percentage ranks fifth among qualified netminders this season, while his goals-against number is 12th in the league.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. San Jose (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 24 at San Jose, 3-0 W – Full Recap
Sat., Nov. 25 at San Jose, 4-2 W – Full Recap
Fri., Jan. 5 vs. San Jose, 2-0 W –
Full Recap
Sat., Jan. 6 vs. San Jose, 5-4 W (OT) – Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 9 at San Jose, 4-1 W – Full Recap

Tue., Feb. 27 vs. San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Mar. 27 at San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 6 vs. San Jose, 6:00 p.m.

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