REIGN PREVIEW 4/20 – Ontario at Colorado

WHO: Ontario Reign (41-22-3-4) at Colorado Eagles (39-24-5-2)
WHEN: Saturday, April 20 @ 6:05 PM Pacific
WHERE: Blue Arena – Loveland, CO

The 2023-24 AHL regular season wraps up this weekend and the Ontario Reign are set for a final two-game series in Colorado against the Eagles at Blue Arena. Beginning Saturday, Ontario and Colorado will battle for positioning in the first round of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs, which is set to begin next week.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Reign can still finish as high as second place in the Pacific Division and enter Saturday’s game two points back of the Tucson Roadrunners for the No. 2 spot in the standings with 89 points. Ontario’s opening round will begin on April 24 at Toyota Arena and while their opponent will be known soon, it can still be either Abbotsford, Bakersfield or Calgary. Colorado is currently in fourth place in the division with 85 points, four back of the Reign and Roadrunners. Ontario begins its penultimate matchup of the season as the fifth-ranked defense in the league, allowing an average of just 2.70 goals per game this season. Colorado, who is coming off a home sweep of the San Diego Gulls with back-to-back victories on Tuesday and Wednesday, are third in the league’s defensive rankings (2.64 goals per game), and average the second-most shots on goal per game this season (32.7).

LAST TIME OUT: Martin Chromiak scored an unassisted goal 2:04 into overtime Wednesday night to give the Ontario Reign a come-from-behind 4-3 road victory over the Bakersfield Condors at Mechanics Bank Arena. The win featured three power play goals for Ontario from three different scorers, including Samuel Fagemo, Francesco Pinelli and Brandt Clarke. The contest completed the regular season series between the Reign and Condors for 2023-24, which saw Ontario go 5-3-0-0.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Reign and Eagles had an even series during the 2022-23 regular season, with the teams splitting their eight clashes 4-4-0, and 2-2-0 on each other’s home ice. Ontario outscored Colorado by the slimmest of margins, posting 25 goals while allowing 24. So far this year, the Eagles hold a 4-2 edge from the six matchups. Colorado earned wins from the first two clashes with identical 5-3 decisions in Loveland on the first weekend of November, but Ontario battled back the following week with a 4-2 win at Toyota Arena and earned a 5-4 shootout victory on Dec. 16. However, the Eagles came back to the Inland Empire just before the league’s All-Star break and earned consecutive three-goal wins over the Reign by 6-3 and 5-2 scores. Former Colorado forward and current Reign captain TJ Tynan led Ontario’s offense in last season’s series with 14 points on a goal and 13 assists. Tynan has racked up seven assists for the Reign from the first six outings against Colorado this season, while another former Eagle, Charles Hudon, is tied for the team lead with seven points on five goals and two assists. Colorado’s leading scorers Brad Hunt and Riley Tufte have also had success against Ontario, with Hunt totaling 10 points on two goals and eight assists, while Tufte has five points on three goals and two helpers.

COUNTING ON CLARKE: Rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke is riding a four-game point streak heading into this weekend’s series and is coming off a win in Bakersfield Wednesday that saw him post a goal and an assist on the power play to add to his rookie campaign’s scoring total. The first-year blueliner netted his 10th tally of the season as well as his 34th assist, giving him 44 total points on the year which ranks eighth among all league defenders and is the second-most of rookie blueliners. His assist total is also tied for the most among first-year skaters in the league. Clarke was recognized with two league awards this week to go along with his impressive numbers, being named to both the AHL’s All-Second Team as well as the league’s All-Rookie Team.

SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Riley Tufte is the top-scoring forward on the Eagles this season, leading the team’s attackers with 42 points on an even 21 goals and 21 assists in 65 games. But defenseman Brad Hunt is the team’s overall leading scorer in his second season in Colorado, posting 49 points on 16 goals and 33 assists while appearing in all 70 of the club’s games. Callahan Burke has also chipped in with an impressive 37 points on 16 goals and 21 helpers. Defender Jack Ahcan has also had a breakout season with 36 points on five goals and 31 assists. Ivan Prosvetov has taken over as the team’s go-to option in net, with netminder Justus Annunen in the NHL with the Avalanche after an excellent 23-game stretch to begin the season in the AHL where he earned a goals-against average of 2.68 and 14 victories. Since joining the team, Prosvetov has played 20 contests and has a record of 10-7-2 along with a 2.29 goals-against and a 0.922 save percentage.

TYNAN LEADING THE WAY: TJ Tynan posted two assists on Friday night during the team’s overtime win over San Diego and the picked up additional helpers in each of the Reign’s last two road victories in Henderson and Bakersfield to remain first in the AHL in the category. With 55 assists and just two games remaining, Tynan is aiming to lead the league for the third consecutive year with Ontario and the fourth time in his career. While suiting up for each of the club’s 70 games, Tynan has produced 64 points, reaching the 60-point mark for the fifth time. The 10th-year forward ranks fifth in the AHL in overall scoring and has had six games with three or more assists this season. Tynan now sits 52nd all-time in league scoring with 591 points in 640 games played.

CLAIMING THE CLOSE ONES: The Reign have found ways to win close games this season, earning a record of 22-6-3-4 in one-goal contests which accounts for 51 of the team’s points. That also includes a 7-3 mark in overtime. Ontario has wins in its last five consecutive games that have gone past regulation.

2023-24 Head-to-Head Schedule vs. Colorado (all times Pacific):
Fri., Nov. 3 at Colorado, 3-5 LFull Recap
Sat., Nov. 4 at Colorado, 3-5 LFull Recap
Sun., Nov. 12 vs. Colorado, 4-2 WFull Recap
Sat., Dec. 16 vs. Colorado, 5-4 W (SO)Full Recap
Tue., Jan. 30 vs. Colorado, 3-6 LFull Recap
Fri., Feb. 2 vs. Colorado, 2-5 LFull Recap
Sat., Apr. 20 at Colorado, 6:05 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 21 at Colorado, 2:05 p.m.

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