The Ontario Reign head to the desert to start a three-game series with the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday.
Tale of the tape:
ONT: 27.4% (1st)
TUC: 21.5% (7th)
ONT: 77.7% (26th)
TUC: 74.2% (30th)
ONT: 174 (1st)
TUC: 113 (31st)
ONT: 133 (10th)
TUC: 163 (29th)
ONT: T.J. Tynan – 10 goals, 48 assists, 58 points
TUC: Matias Maccelli – 13 goals, 39 assists, 52 points
Three things to watch for in tonight’s matchup:
1. Make it Reign in the desert
No, I am not talking about raindrops, I’m talking about the Ontario Reign. Ontario comes to the desert to face the Tucson Roadrunners in game one of a three-game series in the next five days. Ontario enters tonight’s contest scoring 86 goals on the road this season which is second-best in the AHL. On the other hand, Tucson is 29th in the league in goals-against having given up 80 goals on home ice this year.
The Reign score a lot no matter where they play this year and Tucson gives up a lot. Getting off to a good start and scoring early, could put the Roadrunners behind the eight ball considering they are bottom three in the league in goals for and against.
2. Every game matters
Every game is important in the regular season but once you get towards the end of February and beginning of March, each game starts to become more and more important. The Ontario Reign are trying to keep pace with the division-leading Stockton Heat while the Road Runners are just trying to get in the playoffs. Below is an image of how the playoffs shape up and which seeds face each other in the first round.
Courtesy of theahl.com
Seven teams from the Pacific division enter the playoffs with the first seed in the division getting a bye in the first round which is a best-of-three series. Entering tonight’s contest, the Reign are two points behind Stockton for the first seed. Tucson sits one point behind the San Diego Gulls for the seventh and final playoff spot in the division.
While the Reign are fighting for the first seed in the division, they shouldn’t expect an easy win and Tucson to roll over. They’re fighting to get in that final playoff spot and to keep it with only 26 games remaining for them in their schedule. That is why getting off to a great start for Ontario is critical. Every game will be important for both teams going forward starting with tonight.
3. Keep up the improved penalty kill
The penalty kill, once ranked dead last in the AHL, has been playing better of late for the Reign. Ranked 31st just a few months ago, the penalty kill of the Reign has slowly moved up in the penalty kill rankings to 26th at the moment. In their last eight games (the entire month of February), the Reign have successfully killed off 27 of their last 30 penalties (90%). Reign defensemen Austin Strand and Christian Wolanin have been key on the penalty kill during this stretch.
That improved penalty kill will be put to the test tonight. Roadrunners’ forward Matias Maccelli has registered 22 power-play assists this season (second-best in the AHL). The Reign will need to be aware of Maccelli when he is on the ice and keep him in check.
The puck drops tonight at 6:00 pm PT and can be seen on AHLTV.