REIGN PREVIEW 4/10 – Ontario at Coachella Valley

WHO: Ontario Reign (38-21-3-4) at Coachella Valley Firebirds (43-14-5-4)
WHEN: Wednesday, April 10 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Acrisure Arena – Palm Desert, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: AHLTV – AUDIO: Reign Radio TWITTER: @ShafReign & @OntarioReign

The Ontario Reign travel to Coachella Valley for the final time during the 2023-24 regular season Wednesday night for a matchup with the Firebirds at Acrisure Arena. The start of a three-game week for Ontario will pit them against the top team in the Pacific Division as they aim for their eighth consecutive win.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While the Reign have the longest current winning streak in the AHL, Coachella Valley has also been impressive, winning four straight while producing a record of 8-1-0-1 from its last 10 outings. Coachella Valley is in first place in the Pacific standings with 95 points and needs just one more to solidify a regular season division title for the first time in its history. The Firebirds are among the best in the AHL on both sides of the puck, scoring a league-best average of 3.56 goals per game while allowing just 2.52 tallies per contest which ranks second. Ontario on the other hand has claimed 15 wins from their last 18 contests for a record of 15-2-0-1. During that span they’ve outscored opponents by a combined score of 63-38, allowing an average of just two goals per game which has improved their season-long defense ranking to fourth in the league. The Reign are tied with the Tucson Roadrunners for second place in the division, each with 83 points, and hold a two-point edge on the fourth-place Colorado Eagles.

LAST TIME OUT: Erik Portillo made 27 saves during regulation and overtime before denying all three opportunities he faced in the shootout to help the Ontario Reign win their seventh straight game in a 3-2 shootout defeat of the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday night at Toyota Arena. With the victory, Ontario finished a perfect 8-0-0 against their Northern California rivals in the 2023-24 season series. The Reign climbed out of a 2-0 hole to force extra time on goals by Francesco Pinelli and Andre Lee, while Taylor Ward scored the lone tally in the shootout to put his team in the win column.

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 year Ontario has won four of the first seven battles between the two clubs with a record of 4-2-0-1. The 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 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 18-14 overall in this year’s series, going 5-for-23 on the power play (21.7%) and 20-for-23 on the penalty kill (87%). TJ Tynan has led the Reign in scoring against the Firebirds with 10 points on a goal and nine assists in the seven previous meetings this season, while Samuel Fagemo has five goals and an assist for six points in just five contests.

LEE RETURNS WITH A BANG: Forward Andre Lee posted two points Mar. 30 in his first action in two months since sustaining an injury on Jan. 27. The Karlstad, Sweden native tied the game at 2-2 late in the second period before assisting on a go-ahead tally by Nikita Pavlychev at 2:56 of the third. He then followed that up with a second-period power play goal in a win over Henderson last Wednesday night for his sixth goal of the season and then scored a game-tying goal Saturday night to force overtime in an eventual shootout win over San Jose. While Lee has only recorded 11 points in 30 games this year, the attacker has scored in bunches, recording three multi-point games. He previously scored twice in his season debut against Calgary on Nov. 17 and on the road in Abbotsford Jan. 16. Despite his limited action, Lee has set new career-highs in both goal scoring (7) and overall points (11).

SCOUTING THE FIREBIRDS: Coachella Valley is coming off a trip to Abbotsford over the weekend that saw them put two more victories in their win column by very different scores. The Firebirds claimed a 2-1 win in overtime with a late comeback on Friday before a lopsided 7-2 decision the following evening. Forward Kole Lind is the club’s scoring leader, posting 62 points in 64 games this season with 17 goals and 45 assists. Team captain Max McCormick is also having another standout campaign, leading the group in goal scoring with 30 tallies and ranking second with 55 points. Forward Cameron Hughes has also had a big year with 53 points in 64 games on 24 goals and 29 assists. Goaltender Chris Driedger is the team’s top goaltender between the pipes with a 23-6-5 record from 35 appearances to go with a 2.24 goals-against average and a 0.919 save percentage.

TYNAN LEADING THE WAY: Reign captain TJ Tynan posted three assists on Wednesday night in Henderson to extend his league lead in the category and has now totaled 51 helpers in 66 games this season. Tynan also reached the 60-point mark on the year for the fifth time in his professional career. The 10th-year forward is sixth in the AHL in overall scoring and has also had six games with three or more assists this season. Tynan now ranks 55th all-time in league scoring with 587 points in 636 games played.

PORTILLO PROVIDING PATIENCE IN NET: Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo has continued to impress this season, winning his past four starts to improve his record to 21-10-3 in 35 appearances during his first professional year. Portillo’s goals-against average of 2.33 is the sixth lowest in the AHL this season among qualified netminders, while his 0.924 save percentage is third-best in the league. By stopping all three of San Jose’s attempts in the skill session on Saturday night, Portillo picked up the second shootout win of his career.

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, 3-4 SOL – Full Recap
Wed., Apr. 10 at Coachella Valley, 7:00 p.m.

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