That Reign Train is rolling now.
Ontario has won five straight games and claimed important victories over teams that have traditionally given them a tough time. Down to their final three regular season contests before the Pacific Division postseason tournament begins in about 10 days, the Reign are looking to make a few statements this week.
Of late, they first completed a three-game sweep in Colorado. In Game 1 the Reign appeared to break the Eagles’ will and then played with the necessary confidence over the ensuing days to close out the series.
Next, came a home-and-home battle featuring the best rivalry in all of the AHL, Ontario vs. San Diego. It began with a goal from Rasmus Kupari, in his swan song with the Reign — he’s up with the Kings now and expected to remain in the NHL for LA’s final few games, before returning to Ontario and joining them for the playoffs on Tuesday, May 18.
Eventually, that initial game vs. the Gulls culminated in a 6-4 victory, capped off by a natural hat trick from Mikey Eyssimont in the third period. For Friday’s rematch, the team’s headed to Irvine — temporary home to the Gulls this season — and it was another wild game, ending in a 7-4 victory for Ontario. It also featured another Reign hat trick, this time coming from Adam Johnson. He was signed late in the season to give some veteran leadership to a very young Ontario team and he’s delivered offensively, producing 10 points (5G, 5A) in 11 games played. The 26-year-old former college hockey player had been in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization the past few years and is only signed through the end of the month. He’ll certainly be attempting to add to those totals over the next few weeks and earn himself a new contract this summer.
Turning to Mother’s Day, all eyes are back on the Eagles.
After being swept by the Reign in Colorado, the Eagles arrived in Southern California early last week and suffered a 2-1 loss in Bakersfield on Wednesday. The same two teams were supposed to rematch on Friday, but that game was postponed just after warmups, as one of the Colorado players tested positive for COVID.
From what we’ve been told this morning, today’s game is still scheduled to take place in El Segundo.
While the Pacific Division standings may not mean that much in the big picture, as all seven teams are expected to play in the postseason tournament, today’s game does still have some implications on the line. If Ontario wins, they’ll leapfrog Colorado into sixth place.
With the same two teams on a collision course to meet in Game 1 of the tournament, this could weigh heavily on Colorado mentally. Another victory today would give the Reign four straight wins over the Eagles and, at least on paper, some positive momentum heading into their next meeting.
Kings prospect Martin Chromiak, who made his AHL debut on Friday, has been moved up from the fourth-line to RW3. Additionally, Jacob Doty will slide into the lineup tonight. There have only been a small handful of games where coach John Wroblewski has opted to skate Boko Imama and Doty in the same game. We’ll assume this is more about ensuring Colorado stays in line, as Nick Halloran had been a point-per-game player over this last seven games before being asked to sit this one out.
Ontario Reign Projected Lineup vs. Colorado Eagles
Eyssimont – Turcotte – Fagemo
Kaliyev – Johnson – Frk
Dudas – Thomas – Chromiak
Imama – Sutter – Doty
Moverare – Durzi
Brickley – Clague
Phillips – Alt
Other Roster Notes:
— Plans for Quinton Byfield are outlined here. He’s completed his six-game look with the Kings and is currently on LA’s taxi squad. He’s expected to rejoin the Reign by Tuesday and is scheduled to play in their final two regular season games, coming next Friday and Sunday in Tucson.
— Austin Strand is sidelined with an injury.
— 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.
— Although, highly regarded LA prospect Tyler Madden remains out indefinitely due to this hit, there is an optimistic feeling surrounding the situation. After spending a significant amount of time on the sidelines, Madden is doing much better and will be practicing with the team this week. If all goes well, there is a strong possibility the 21-year-old rookie forward could see game action next weekend.
— Defenseman Cole Hults and goaltender Jacob Ingham are on the NHL taxi squad.
Today’s puck drop is scheduled for 1pm PST and can be streamed through AHL TV.
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Photo courtesy of AHL Colorado Eagles