REIGN PREVIEW 3/30 – Ontario vs. Bakersfield

WHO: Ontario Reign (35-21-3-4) vs. Bakersfield Condors (35-24-2-2)
WHEN: Saturday, March 30 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Toyota Arena – Ontario, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Ontario Reign go up against the Bakersfield Condors for the third time in the past two weeks Saturday night at Toyota Arena. It will be the final meeting between the two played in Ontario this season, with the Reign scheduled to travel to Bakersfield to close the season series against the Condors on April 17. The two teams have split their six previous meetings this year, with each earning a 3-3-0 record.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With some help from teams below them in the standings Friday night, the Reign enter Saturday in a three-way tie for second place in the Pacific Division standings. A win would at least allow Ontario to keep pace with their fellow even combatants, the Tucson Roadrunners and Colorado Eagles. Bakersfield is currently holding the No. 6 position in the division, trailing Ontario by three points. Both the Reign and Condors each have just nine games remaining on their regular season schedules. Ontario enters Saturday’s game with a share of the longest active win streak in the AHL alongside the Charlotte Checkers at four games. The last month has been the Reign’s best of the campaign, outscoring opponents by a combined total of 51-29 in their past 15 outings. 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 2.65 goals per game overall. Bakersfield is one of the better defensive teams in the league as well, allowing 2.76 goals per game which is sixth-best in the AHL.

LAST TIME OUT: The Ontario Reign successfully climbed out of a first period two-goal deficit with two strikes in the second before Taylor Ward scored the lone goal of the third to give them a 3-2 win over the San Jose Barracuda on Wednesday night at Tech CU Arena. The win, combined with a loss for San Diego to Bakersfield, officially clinched the team a spot in the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs. Charles Hudon, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with an injury, led the way for Ontario on the offensive end with a goal and an assist, while Akil Thomas scored for the fourth straight game and Aaron Dell stopped 34 shots to earn a win against his former team.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The season series between Ontario and Bakersfield has been even through six results, but the Condors have outscored the Reign by a combined 22-15 on the scoreboard. Ontario holds a 164-158 edge in shots on goal during the matchups while posting three power play goals on 21 opportunities. Bakersfield has scored seven times on 21 power play chances in this year’s series, the most successful team against the Reign’s penalty kill this season. Akil Thomas leads the team with five points through six games on three goals and two assists, while Tyler Madden has two goals and two assists and Brandt Clarke has contributed with four helpers. Lane Pederson (1-4=5) and Ben Gleason (0-5=5) are the leading active scorers for the Condors against Ontario this year.

THOMAS KEEPS ROLLING: Fresh off an award-winning home stretch which saw him score six points in three games to capture the AHL’s Player of the Week honor, Akil Thomas netted another tally on Wednesday in San Jose, his 22nd of the season. A week ago, Thomas scored the game-winning goal in each of Ontario’s three victories and finished the week with a plus-6 rating. This season Thomas has set new career-highs in goals (22), assists (21) and points (43), while his goal total is second-most on the team. The fourth-year forward has achieved his first-career 40-point season while playing in 61 of 63 contests on the schedule. In addition, his nine game-winning goals are the most in the AHL this season.

SCOUTING THE CONDORS: Bakersfield’s scoring leader this season is a familiar face for the Condors, Seth Griffith, who has 53 points in 59 games during his fourth season with the Condors on 12 goals and 41 assists. Lane Pederson has also stepped up to be a major contributor offensively this season with 48 points in 58 games on 21 goals and 27 helpers, while Raphael Lavoie has a team-high 26 goals and is third on the club with 44 points. Defenseman Ben Gleason is leading the Condors in scoring from the blue line with 29 points in 53 games on nine goals and 20 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. As of late, the team has had to turn to their other netminder, Olivier Rodridgue, who has started their last five contests. Rodrigue has played in 32 games this season and has a 2.72 GAA and a 0.915 save percentage.

WARD-ING OFF OPPONENTS: Forward Taylor Ward has given the team a boost of late and was brought up to the team’s top offensive line alongside captain TJ Tynan and Martin Chromiak for Wednesday’s game in San Jose. In his last four games, all wins for Ontario, Ward accumulated a plus-8 rating while scoring two goals and two assists. He has also not been on the ice for any goals against during the four-game run. Overall on the year Ward has a team-high plus-20 rating which ranks in the top-15 among all AHL skaters. His 27 points on eight goals and 19 helpers have surpassed 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 seven starts, going 6-0-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average and a 0.943 save percentage dating back to Feb. 23. Most recently, the goalkeeper made a season-high 34 stops to win against his former organization in San Jose. Dell, 34, has previously appeared in 130 NHL games during his career in parts of eight seasons with the Sharks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. In 143 career AHL contests, Dell has produced a 2.62 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, 4-3 W – Full Recap
Sat., Mar. 30 vs. Bakersfield, 6:00 p.m.
Wed., Apr. 17 at Bakersfield, 6:30 p.m.

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