REIGN PREVIEW 3/1 – Ontario vs. San Diego

WHO: Ontario Reign (26-19-3-3) vs. San Diego Gulls (18-23-8-0)
WHEN: Friday, March 1 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign open up their March calendar on Friday night by hosting the San Diego Gulls at Toyota Arena. After three straight wins in a five day span, Ontario is looking to extend its run of improved play and earn points in the standings in a fifth straight outing.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ontario enters Friday night’s contest in a tie with Bakersfield for sixth place in the Pacific Division, each with 58 points in the standings. They’re part of a group of five teams that are separated by just three points, led by Tucson in third with 61, along with Calgary and Abbotsford, who both have 60 points. San Diego sits in ninth place in the 10-team table with 44 points, 14 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 2.80 goals per game. San Diego has struggled offensively, averaging the lowest shots on goal per game in the league (26.7). But the Gulls have found success on the power play by scoring on 20.5% of their opportunities this season, with an impressive 28% success rate on the road. Ontario is among the top 10 in the league’s power play rankings, scoring on 20.6% of their man-advantage opportunities this season (7th).

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign scored early and often on their way to a third straight win Tuesday night over the San Jose Barracuda by a final score of 8-2 at Toyota Arena. Samuel Fagemo led the way, posting a career-high five points in the contest with his second hat trick of the season against San Jose along with a pair of assists. Other offensive standouts for Ontario included TJ Tynan, who added three assists, as well as Joe Hicketts and Nikita Pavlychev, who each had a goal and an assist. Goaltender Erik Portillo turned out 38 shots, including 19 in the third period, to earn the victory and improve to 15-8-3 on the year.

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 five meetings this season things have been much more even, with the Gulls taking three matchups. The Reign suffered back-to-back losses to open the year before earning a 3-2 win in the third matchup and coming up short in overtime by a 4-3 final on Dec. 28. Most recently, Ontario went into San Diego and secured a 3-2 win last Saturday night. Ontario has outshot the Gulls by a combined margin of 174-157 in the five contests and earned an average of close to five power play opportunities per game, with 24 total in the series from which they’ve scored five times. Joe Hicketts leads the Reign in the five previous meetings with five assists, while Charles Hudon has totaled four points on two goals and two assists.

FAGEMO FIRING AWAY: Forward Samuel Fagemo was at his best Tuesday night, scoring a career-high five points with three goals and two assists during Ontario’s eight-goal outburst victory over San Jose. Fagemo has dominated against the Barracuda all season, totaling 11 goals and 16 points from six contests. The three goals added to Fagemo’s season total which now stands at 28 and ranks second in the AHL, just one behind Springfield’s Adam Gaudette. He also has 43 overall points, which is the second most among Reign skaters and ranks tied for 13th in the league. Fagemo’s 13 power play tallies are the top number in the AHL.

SCOUTING THE GULLS: Forward Andrew Agozzino leads San Diego in scoring with 41 points on 13 goals and 28 assists while suiting up in all 49 of their games this season. Pavol Regenda and Glenn Gawdin have both found the back of the net 16 times apiece, while Gawdin has posted 38 total points. Rookie blueliner Olen Zellweger is the team’s top-scoring defender with 37 points in 44 games on 12 goals and 25 assists, while veteran Trevor Carrick has also accounted for 30 points (5-25=30). Goaltender Tomas Suchanek has been solid in net since joining the club, posting an 11-4-3 record in 18 appearances with a 2.33 goals-against average and a 0.928 save percentage. Calle Clang has also been in goal for 21 games and has a 6-10-4 record.

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 last Wednesday against Abbotsford before earning the primary assist on a late tying goal by Samuel Fagemo last Friday. The following night he posted a pair of helpers on goals by Fagemo and Martin Chromiak in San Diego before scoring his first goal with the Reign and an assist on Tuesday in an 8-2 defeat of San Jose. In just 11 total games this season, Hicketts has racked up 11 points on a goal and 10 assists along with a plus-11 rating.

PORTILLO PROVIDING PATIENCE IN NET: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo has continued to impress this season and has allowed just six goals in his past four starts against Tucson, Abbotsford, San Diego and San Jose. In 27 games this season, Portillo has allowed only 64 tallies for a goals-against average of 2.43 while accounting for a 0.923 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 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, 3-2 W – Full Recap
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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