After 40 regular season games that featured more twists and turns than the best ride Magic Mountain has to offer, it’s all comes down to this for the Ontario Reign. The idea is simple, win or go home.
Later tonight in Irvine, the Reign will square off with the Colorado Eagles once again. After winning four of their six matchups during the regular season, nothing matters more than the outcome of this game. Ontario must win, then win again tomorrow night to secure the fourth seed in this special one-off AHL postseason tournament.
And they’ll have to do it without defenseman Sean Durzi. A case could be made for the second-year pro being the team’s best blueliner this season. Unfortunately, he was hit early in the regular season finale on Sunday and is now said to be day-to-day with an upper body injury.
We'll have more on this shortly, a key roster change for tonight's Ontario Reign playoff game includes:
Sean Durzi out, will be day-to-day.
Replacing him on D will be Nick Boka – fresh up from ECHL.
23yr old RHD, late rd pick of Minnesota Wild, 4yrs at Michigan, 3 in Coast.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) May 18, 2021
Replacing him will be 23-year-old Nick Boka. Although he has pro experience with the Allen Americans and Fort Wayne Komets, that’s all at the ECHL level. Boka has never suited up for an AHL game – until tonight.
Up front, coach John Wroblewski has opted to put captain Brett Sutter back on the fourth line. That comes at the expense of Aidan Dudas, which will be a major loss on the Reign penalty kill. As we understand things, Wroblewski and the staff toyed with idea of using 13 forwards to keep him in the lineup, but eventlally decided it was best to remain with the traditional 12-6 lineup configuration.
Kings prospect Rasmus Kupari put up five points (1G, 4A) in five games vs. the Eagles this season.
Team goal and points leader, Arthur Kaliev, had a goal in four of the six games he played against Colorado.
Meanwhile, Akil Thomas has a goal in two of his three most recent games vs. today’s opposition.
Ontario Reign Projected Lineup vs. Colorado Eagles
Andersson – Kupari – Frk
Johnson – Byfield – Kaliyev
Eyssimont – Thomas – Fagemo
Imama – Sutter – Madden
Phillips – Clague
Brickley – Sadek
Moverare – Boka
Other Roster Notes:
— Kings prospect Alex Turcotte remains sidelined, we hear it is more of a week-to-week situation at this point.
— Defenseman Austin Strand was not available for today’s game due to an injury suffered several weeks ago.
— Devante Smith Pelly and Nick Halloran will be healthy scratches, while Blaine Byron remains out with an injury. All three players are on AHL-only contracts.
— Defenseman Cole Hults and goaltender Jacob Ingham are inactive.
Puck drop for tonight’s play-in game is scheduled for 7:30pm PST and can be streamed through AHL TV.
Ontario Reign: 2021 AHL Postseason Tournament Details, Plus Byfield Notes
The Situation: Details on What’s Going On With Byfield, Lizotte, Kupari
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Photo courtesy of AHL Tucson Roadrunners