REIGN PREVIEW 3/15 – Ontario vs. Coachella Valley

WHO: Ontario Reign (31-20-3-3) vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds (35-13-5-3)
WHEN: Friday, March 15 @ 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 meet the Coachella Valley Firebirds for the seventh of eight contests between the two teams this season on Friday night at Toyota Arena. With a win on a game-winning goal in overtime by Jacob Moverare last month on Feb. 23, the Reign improved to 4-2-0 against Coachella Valley in the first six meetings.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While Ontario’s recent eight-game win streak was snapped in San Diego on Wednesday, the team has still earned points in nine of its last 10 outings. That recent run of hot play has propelled them up the Pacific Division standings. They currently sit in fourth with 68 points, one back of Colorado for third and two behind second-place Tucson. During their last 10 games, Ontario has outscored opponents by a combined total of 36-16, allowing an average of just 1.6 goals per contest. Coachella Valley is the top team in the Pacific Division standings with 78 points and have posted a 7-1-1-1 record from their last 10 contests. The Firebirds are in the top 5 of the league rankings on both sides of the puck, scoring a league-best average of 3.54 goals per game while allowing just 2.55 tallies per contest which is second-lowest in the AHL. The Reign now rank fourth on the defensive side of the puck, allowing 2.67 goals per game. Coachella Valley also averages the most shots on goal per contest in the league this season with an average of 34.3. Ontario has the fourth-best power play percentage in the league this season by scoring on 21.1% of its man-advantage opportunities.

LAST TIME OUT: Despite a lopsided shot total in their favor, the Ontario Reign came up short against the San Diego Gulls on the road Wednesday night by a score of 2-1 at Pechanga Arena. Samuel Fagemo scored his league-leading 35th goal for Ontario in the loss during a contest that saw them outshoot San Diego 42-13. TJ Tynan earned the primary assist on the strike and is also tied for the AHL lead with 44 assists this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Ontario had a mostly even inaugural season series with the Firebirds last season, posting a record of 3-4-1 in eight outings, but were more successful in Palm Desert than at home in the IE, going 1-2-1 at Toyota Arena. This season’s first two meetings were one-sided in favor of the Reign, who shut out Coachella Valley twice to open the series at Acrisure Arena before the teams skated to a split during a home-and-home weekend on Dec. 1-2. Goaltender David Rittich manned the net in the first three contests for Ontario and posted shutouts in the first two with 41 saves on Oct. 25 and 24 on Nov. 21. The Reign have outscored CV 15-10 overall in this year’s series, going 5-for-19 on the power play (26.3%) and 18-for-21 on the penalty kill (85.7%). TJ Tynan has led the Reign in scoring against the Firebirds with eight assists in the six previous meetings this season, while Samuel Fagemo has four goals and an assist for five points in just four contests.

FAGEMO EARNS PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS: The AHL announced Monday that Samuel Fagemo had been selected as the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week after scoring five goals and six total points in two outings for Ontario during a five-day span. Fagemo netted game-winning goals in both of those contests, with three points (2-1=3) on Wednesday against Abbotsford and a hat trick on Sunday in Calgary. The attacker now has 11 multi-goal games during 2023-24 and leads the AHL with 35 goals in just 39 games for Ontario. His 16 power play goals, the most by any Ontario skater in team history, lead the league this season, while Fagemo’s eight game-winning goals are also tied for the most of any AHL player. Fagemo has totaled a career-high 52 points this season which ranks fifth-most in the AHL. In his four seasons with the Reign, Fagemo has 146 points in 190 contests on 95 goals and 51 assists.

SCOUTING THE FIREBIRDS: Coachella Valley has won seven of its last 10 games, including victories in their most recent matchups last weekend over San Diego and Tucson. The Firebirds have been the best road team in the AHL this season, posting a 20-4-3-1 record away from home for a 0.786 points percentage. Forward Kole Lind has taken over as the club’s scoring leader, posting 52 points in 54 games this season on 12 goals and 40 assists. Team captain Max McCormick is also having another standout campaign, leading the group in goal scoring with 26 tallies and ranking second in overall scoring with 47 points. Forward Cameron Hughes has also had a big year with 45 points in 54 games on 17 goals and 28 assists. Goaltender Chris Driedger is leading the way in between the pipes with a 16-6-5 record in 28 appearances to go with a 2.28 goals-against average and a 0.916 save percentage.

PORTILLO PROVIDING PATIENCE IN NET: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo has continued to impress this season and has allowed just 10 goals in his past seven starts against Tucson, Abbotsford, San Diego, San Jose and Calgary. In 30 games this season, Portillo has allowed only 68 tallies for a goals-against average of 2.32 while accounting for a 0.924 save percentage and two shutouts. His save percentage ranks third among qualified netminders this season, while his goals-against number is tied for sixth-best in the league.

HUDON LENDS A HELPING HAND: Forward Charles Hudon has hit his stride during the last month, racking up 15 points from his previous 13 games on four goals and 11 assists. The Alma, Que. native posted helpers on two of Ontario’s goals in Sunday’s win in Calgary, earning a second assist on Samuel Fagemo’s opening power play goal as well as the primary assist on Taylor Ward’s second period strike. He followed that up with a goal and an assist on Monday, helping the Reign complete a sweep of the Wranglers. Hudon also has three other multi-point games during his recent hot stretch including back-to-back two-assist performances in Tucson Feb. 16-17 and a three-assist night in a win over San Diego on Mar. 1. Overall, Hudon has totaled 48 points from 52 games this season on 19 goals and 29 assists. His 29 helpers are the second-most during his seven-season AHL career, trailing only his rookie campaign when he racked up 38 with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Coachella Valley (all times Pacific):
Wed., Oct. 25 at Coachella Valley, 1-0 W – Full Recap
Tue., Nov. 21 at Coachella Valley, 6-0 W – Full Recap
Fri., Dec. 1 vs. Coachella Valley, 0-2 L – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 2 at Coachella Valley, 4-3 OTW – Full Recap
Sat., Jan. 20 vs. Coachella Valley, 2-4 L – Full Recap
Fri., Feb. 23 vs. Coachella Valley, 2-1 OTW – Full Recap
Fri., Mar. 15 vs. Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 10 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m

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