REIGN PREVIEW 3/27 – Ontario at San Jose

WHO: Ontario Reign (34-21-3-4) at San Jose Barracuda (20-30-9-2)
WHEN: Wednesday, March 27 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Tech CU Arena – San Jose, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign play in San Jose for the fourth and final time during 2023-24 on Wednesday night against the Barracuda, looking to extend their perfect record against their foes to the north. Ontario has won all six of their previous matchups against San Jose this season, outscoring the Barracuda by a 26-9 margin.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: A win for the Reign in San Jose along with a Bakersfield victory over San Diego on Wednesday night would officially clinch Ontario a spot in the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Reign have just 10 games remaining, while San Jose has 11 contests left on their 2023-24 slate and currently sit in 10th place in the Pacific Division with 51 points. Ontario is in fourth place with 75 points, three ahead of both Bakersfield and Calgary. The last month has been the Reign’s best of the campaign, outscoring opponents by a combined total of 48-27 in their past 14 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 fifth in the league, giving up just 2.66 goals per game overall. San Jose is 15th in the league offensively with an average of 3.08 goals per game but ranks last on defense with 223 tallies allowed this year which is the most of any AHL club.

LAST TIME OUT: Akil Thomas scored for the third straight game and Nikita Pavlychev netted a goal and an assist for the Ontario Reign in a 4-3 win over the Bakersfield Condors Sunday afternoon, the team’s third straight home win of the week. The victory extended Ontario’s point streak at home to 11 consecutive games, dating back to February 9. Erik Portillo stopped 23 of Bakersfield’s shot attempts to record the 19th win of his rookie campaign.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign have wins in all six of the matchups between them and the Barracuda so far 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 and won three more in five days during the beginning of January with 2-0 and 5-4 triumphs at Toyota Arena before a 4-1 victory on Jan. 9. In the most recent meeting on Feb. 27 in Ontario, the Reign secured two points in lopsided fashion with an 8-2 win. Ontario picked up points in five of their contests against San Jose during 2022-23, finishing with a 3-3-1-1 record against the Barracuda in a series that had an even number of goals for and goals against, 25 or each club. 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 series, scoring 16 points on 11 goals and five assists including two hat tricks. Akil Thomas has also been a standout for Ontario this season with eight points on four goals and four helpers.

TERRIFIC THOMAS NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Akil Thomas followed up his spinning backhand overtime winner Friday with a two-goal performance in Sunday’s win over Bakersfield and captured the AHL’s Player of the Week award on Monday after three straight multi-point performances in Ontario. Thomas had a goal and an assist in wins on Wednesday and Friday before he was named the No. 1 star for the Reign on Sunday. He scored the game-winning goal in each of the team’s three victories and finished the week with a plus-6 rating. This season Thomas has set new career-highs with 21 goals, 21 assists and 42 points, while his goal total is second-most on the team. The fourth-year forward has achieved his first-career 40-point season with Ontario and has played in 60 of 62 contests on the schedule. In addition, his nine game-winning goals are the most in the AHL this season.

SCOUTING THE BARRACUDA: San Jose comes into Wednesday’s matchup after defeating the Tucson Roadrunners on Sunday afternoon by a 4-0 score. The Barracuda’s season will end without a playoff berth for the third consecutive year, with the team currently occupying the bottom position in the Pacific Division. Forward Nathan Todd leads the team with 47 points in 60 games this season on 16 goals and 31 assists. Danil Gushchin is second in scoring with 42 points on 15 goals and 27 helpers, while Cole Cassels has earned 41 points on nine goals and 32 assists. Rookie Ethan Cardwell has also chipped in with a team-high 19 goals. Defender Shakir Mukhamadullin, one of San Jose’s top prospects on the blue line, has 32 points on seven goals and 25 assists. Goaltenders Magnus Chrona and Georgi Romanov have each appeared in 25 contests and played over 1,300 minutes in the crease for the Barracuda, while Eetu Makiniemi has a team-high eight wins from 18 games and a 0.900 save percentage.

WARD-ING OFF OPPONENTS: Forward Taylor Ward has given the team a boost of late while playing on a line with Akil Thomas and Tyler Madden. In three games last week, Ward accumulated a plus-7 rating, along with scoring a goal and two assists in a win over Tucson on Wednesday. He, along with Thomas and Madden, were not on the ice for any goals against during last week’s three home wins. Overall this season Ward has a team-high plus-19 rating which ranks in the top-15 among all AHL skaters. His 26 points on seven goals and 19 helpers have equaled the 26 points he put up last season as a rookie while appearing in 71 of Ontario’s 72 regular season games.

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 dating back to Feb. 23. The goalkeeper secured his first win of the season against Tucson last 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. 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, 8-2 W – Full Recap
Wed., Mar. 27 at San Jose, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Apr. 6 vs. San Jose, 6:00 p.m.

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