REIGN PREVIEW 4/21 – Ontario at Colorado

WHO: Ontario Reign (42-22-3-4) at Colorado Eagles (39-25-5-2)
WHEN: Sunday, April 21 @ 2:05 PM Pacific
WHERE: Blue Arena – Loveland, CO

The Ontario Reign battle the Colorado Eagles Sunday afternoon at Blue Arena in the final game of the 2023-24 AHL regular season. The result of the matchup will determine the matchups for each of the three Pacific Division best-of-3 series in the upcoming 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: A win of any kind in Sunday’s contest would have the Reign finish in second place in the Pacific Division standings and lock in a first round matchup with the No. 7 seed Calgary Wranglers. On the contrary, a win or overtime/shootout loss for Ontario would set up a matchup between the Reign and Bakersfield Condors to open the playoffs. Ontario’s opening round will begin on April 24 at Toyota Arena against either opponent. While Colorado and Abbotsford are confirmed to face each other next week, the result of Sunday’s Reign and Eagles game will determine which club will have home ice for each of the three games in their series. Ontario forward Samuel Fagemo needs one goal in Sunday’s game to finish with a share of the league’s Willie Marshall Award, which is awarded to the AHL’s top goal scorer during the regular season. Coming into the game Fagemo has 43 tallies on the season, one behind Springfield’s Adam Gaudette (44), who has already played his last game.

LAST TIME OUT: Alex Turcotte scored a hat trick and six Ontario Reign players recorded multi-point nights in a 7-3 win over the Colorado Eagles on Saturday at Blue Arena. Taylor Ward also found the back of the net twice, while goaltender Ryan Bednard made 24 saves to pick up a victory in his first career start for Ontario. Brandt Clarke, TJ Tynan and Akil Thomas all posted two assists in the winning result for Ontario, while Samuel Fagemo had a goal and an assist.

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 4-3 edge from the seven 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. After Saturday’s result, the Reign can even the season series for the second straight year with a win on Sunday. TJ Tynan leads Ontario this season with nine assists from the first seven outings against Colorado this season, while Charles Hudon (5-2=7) and Alex Turcotte (4-3=7) each have totaled seven points apiece. 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 six points on three goals and three helpers.

COUNTING ON CLARKE: Rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke is riding a five-game point streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale and is coming off his seventh multi-assist performance of the year with two helpers on Saturday night. The first-year blueliner also netted his 10th tally of the season earlier in the week as part of a two-point night in Bakersfield on Wednesday. Clarke now has 46 total points on the year which ranks fourth among all league defenders and is the second-most of rookie blueliners. His assist total is also 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 43 points on 21 goals and 22 assists in 66 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. Hunt was recalled by the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday after previously appearing in all 70 of the Eagles’ games during 2023-24. 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 ran his current assist streak to four games with a pair of helpers during Saturday’s win over his former team in Colorado. His 57 total assists on the season leads all AHL skaters with one game remaining on the 2023-24 schedule. Tynan is in a position to lead the league in the category for the third consecutive year with Ontario and the fourth time overall in his career, which would tie a league record held by AHL Hall of Famer Art Stratton. While suiting up for each of the club’s 71 games, Tynan has produced 66 points, reaching the 60-point mark for the fifth time. Once he steps on the ice Sunday, Tynan will complete a second straight season with appearances in all of the Reign’s 72 contests. The 10th-year forward ranks fourth 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 593 points in 641 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
un., 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, 7-3 WFull Recap
Sun., Apr. 21 at Colorado, 2:05 p.m.

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