REIGN PREVIEW 3/24 – Ontario vs. Bakersfield

WHO: Ontario Reign (33-21-3-4) vs. Bakersfield Condors (34-22-2-2)
WHEN: Sunday, March 24 @ 3:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: After the LA Kings won their third straight home game of the week on Saturday, the Ontario Reign will aim to follow their lead and do the same when they host the Bakersfield Condors on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Arena. Following a loss to Bakersfield in the teams’ most recent matchup last Saturday, the Reign have responded to earn back-to-back wins over Tucson and Calgary on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. The Condors, on the other hand, split a midweek series with the Wranglers Tuesday and Wednesday before picking up a shootout victory over first-place Coachella Valley on Friday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The final push for positioning in the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs is in full swing with just 11 games remaining for Ontario, while the Condors have 12 scheduled contests to play. The Reign are currently holding fourth place in the Pacific Division with 73 points, a single point ahead of fifth-place Bakersfield. The Condors have been one of the hottest teams in the AHL down the stretch, having won seven of their last 10 games as they fight for a home-ice spot in the postseason. Ontario has also had success over the past month, showcasing some of their best play to outscore opponents by a combined total of 44-24 in their past 13 games. During that span, the Reign have allowed an average of less than two goals per contest which has improved their season-long defensive ranking to fourth in the league, giving up just 2.66 goals per game overall. Bakersfield is one of the better defensive teams in the league as well, allowing 2.73 goals per game which is sixth-best in the AHL.

LAST TIME OUT: Akil Thomas pulled off a highlight-reel goal in overtime, using a spin move to create space before backhanding the puck to the top corner and sent the Ontario Reign past the Calgary Wranglers by a final score of 2-1 on Friday night at Toyota Arena. Thomas also had an assist in the win, which featured a tying goal by Tyler Madden in the third period. Goaltender Erik Portillo stopped 30 shots for Ontario to earn the win in the crease and reduce the Reign’s magic number to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs to eight.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Condors have taken three of the first five meetings against Ontario this season, outscoring the Reign 19-11 in the series. Ontario holds a 141-132 edge in shots on goal during the matchups while posting three power play goals on 20 opportunities. Bakersfield has scored five times on 19 power play chances in this year’s series, but the Reign held them to just a single man-advantage chance last Saturday. Captain TJ Tynan was Ontario’s leading scorer against the Condors last season, posting eight points in the eight-game series on a goal and seven assists. This year, Tynan is tied for the team scoring lead against Bakersfield with three points on a goal and two assists, while Charles Hudon has three goals and Tyler Madden has two goals and an assist.

TWIRLING THOMAS: Akil Thomas’ spinning backhand overtime winner earned high praise and was on many highlight reels over the past 24 hours. His 19 goals on the year have him tied for second on the Reign roster along with Charles Hudon and go along with 21 assists to give the fourth-year forward his first career 40-point season with Ontario. The Toronto native became the fourth forward on the club to reach 40 points this year, doing it while playing in 59 of the team’s 61 games to date. 14 of Thomas’ points have come via the power play on five goals and nine helpers. Most recently, he’s scored game-winning goals in back-to-back outings for the Reign and is now tied with teammate Samuel Fagemo for the AHL league lead with eight game-winners during 2023-24.

SCOUTING THE CONDORS: Bakersfield’s scoring leader this season is a familiar face for the Condors, Seth Griffith, who has 50 points in 56 games during his fourth season with the Condors on 12 goals and 38 assists. Griffith recently scored a shootout winner for Bakersfield on Friday night, the lone strike in a five-round skill session against Coachella Valley. Lane Pederson has also stepped up to be a major contributor offensively this season with 45 points in 55 games on 20 goals and 25 helpers, while Raphael Lavoie has a team-high 25 goals and is third on the club with 41 points. Defenseman Ben Gleason is leading the Condors in scoring from the blue line with 26 points in 50 games on nine goals and 17 assists. Since their NHL affiliate, the Edmonton Oilers, shook things up and loaned former Reign netminder Jack Campbell to Bakersfield, the NHL veteran has appeared in 29 games for the Condors between the pipes, going 16-12-0 with a 2.58 goals-against and a 0.920 save percentage. The Condors also have Olivier Rodridgue who has also earned 29 appearances and has almost identical numbers to Campbell with a 2.68 GAA and a 0.918 save percentage.

NOT SO TYPICAL TYNAN: Reign captain TJ Tynan added two more assists to his league-leading total in Wednesday’s win and now has points in nine of his last 13 games. Tynan’s 47 helpers on the year have him just three away from the fourth 50-assist campaign of his career and his 55 points are tied for the fifth-most in the AHL. While the Orland Park, Ill. native has certainly been a big part of Ontario’s successful power play, Tynan has accounted for more even-strength scoring this season than in his first two years with the Reign. Only 16 of his 55 points have come via the man-advantage, with the center scoring two goals and 14 assists. In his first two seasons with Ontario Tynan scored half of his points via the power play, posting 49 of his team record 98 points on the man-advantage during 2021-22 and 40 of his 81 came when the team was up a man during 2022-23.

DELL HEATING UP: Veteran netminder Aaron Dell is unbeaten in regulation for the Reign in his last six starts, going 5-0-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average and a 0.943 save percentage. The goalkeeper secured his first win of the season against Tucson on Wednesday, stopping 32 of 33 shots on goal. Dell, 34, has previously appeared in 130 NHL games during his career in parts of eight seasons with the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. In 142 career AHL contests, Dell has produced a 2.63 goals-against average and a 0.914 save percentage.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Bakersfield (all times Pacific):
Sat., Oct. 21 at Bakersfield, 3-2 W – Full Recap
Fri., Dec. 8 vs. Bakersfield, 4-6 L – Full Recap
Sat., Dec. 9 at Bakersfield, 2-1 W – Full Recap
Sun., Jan. 21 vs. Bakersfield, 2-6 L – Full Recap
Sat., Mar. 16 at Bakersfield, 0-4 L – Full Recap
Sun., Mar. 24 vs. Bakersfield, 3:00 p.m.
Sat., Mar. 30 vs. Bakersfield, 6:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 17 at Bakersfield, 6:30 p.m.

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