On paper, things are lining up nicely for Ontario coach Marco Sturm as he prepares his team for a game in Bakersfield on Saturday night. It will be the front end of a back-to-back weekend set for the Reign, while their opponent is coming off a game in San Diego last night.
Two may seem to be the magic number, as well. In Ontario’s first matchup of the year vs. Bakersfield, Sammy Fagemo scored two goals. Next time out vs. the Condors, it was Akil Thomas who found the back of the net twice.
Or perhaps the number three should be tonight’s theme. Not only is this the rubber match between Ontario and Bakersfield, a Reign victory would prevent them from dropping three straight, after falling short against Colorado and San Jose over the past week. Back to those pair of previous matchups with Bakersfield, the Condors scored three goals on the Reign in each contest. In their first tilt, that was good enough for a 3-2 win. The rematch produced a 4-3 Reign victory.
As for the lineup, coming off those pair of losses and with a stretch of three games in four nights, look for Sturm to mix things up.
While nothing is official, we’re expecting Matt Villalta to get the start in net. Up front, based on recent history, Jacob Doty and Nate Thompson will likely give way to Andre Lee and Sammy Helenius. This could also be coupled with a few changes to the top lines — maybe Alex Turcotte even slides over to wing, after making his season debut on Thursday at center. If not him, it would probably be Thomas who moves to wing for this game. Putting all of this in a blender, our best guestimate is listed as the projected lineup below.
Turcotte only faced Bakersfield twice last season, scoring a goal against them the last time he faced the Condors… which also happened to be a road game, like tonight.
Quinton Byfield only suited up for 11 games with the Reign last season, prior to being recalled to the NHL. One of the games was against Bakersfield, and the 6-foot-5 center potted a goal that night. The season prior, when Byfield was a regular member of the Reign, he skated in seven games vs. Bakersfield and recorded four goals. In fact, he has scored in five of the last six games played vs. the Condors.
On defense, Jordan Spence leads all AHL blueliners with 11 assists on the season. We’re expecting him to remain paired with Toby Björnfot, while there is a good chance Helge Grans rejoins Jacob Moverare on the second pair. Any defensive alignment is purely speculative, as Sturm is currently juggling an abundance of defensemen.
Comparing the two power plays thus far this season, Ontario is clicking at 22% through 10 games played; Bakersfield has converted on 12.5% when they have the man advantage. Similarly when on the penalty kill, Ontario leads the way, 84.6% to 78.7%.
ONTARIO REIGN PROJECTED LINEUP vs. BAKERSFIELD CONDORS
Andersson – Tynan – Ward
Turcotte – Byfield – Fagemo
Quine – Thomas – Madden
Lee – Helenius – Dudas
Björnfot – Spence
Moverare – Grans
Bisson – Allard
Game scratches: Chromiak, Doty, Gaunce, Nousiainen, Thompson, Wagner
Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm PST tonight and the game can be viewed on AHL TV.
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