The Ontario Reign kicked off their first of two against the Henderson Silver Knights with a 3-2 overtime win.
ONT: Lias Andersson (4) ASST: Gabriel Vilardi (21), T.J. Tynan (57)
HSK: Gage Quincey (6) ASST: Sven Baertschi (10), Derrick Pouliot (14)
ONT: Martin Frk (29) ASST: Samuel Fagemo (10), Matthew Villalta (2)
Here are three things that stood out on Friday.
Lias Andersson is proving himself
Placed on injured reserve on January 10th, it seemed that Andersson may have lost his roster spot with the LA Kings. Without him in the lineup, the big club has gone 13-6-2 and gotten themselves into the playoff hunt. That’s not to say that Andersson in the lineup was the reason they weren’t winning, but the team we are seeing now winning games seemed to ratchet up when he got hurt.
In his two games of conditioning so far in Ontario, Andersson is proving that he still deserves a look. His two goals against Henderson give him four in just two games. He has slotted easily into Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s power-play position and could continue to really turn up the heat as the Reign keep moving through what will be a busy but important March.
After being drafted by the New York Rangers in 2017, Andersson seemed sort of lost. He has looked good in the Kings’ system and one has to wonder if he will continue this kind of offensive output. If he does, he is going to threaten roster spots in the NHL before long.
Matt Villalta continued his excellent year between the pipes for Ontario. He stopped 24 shots in the first two periods and was a key reason the Reign were in front. Unfortunately, the 3rd period didn’t go to plan with the Silver Knights scoring twice in the final five minutes to send the game to overtime.
Villalta only had to make one save in the extra frame, but even picked up an assist on the winning goal. The 22-year-old netminder has had an excellent season, holding a 20-4-4 record and a 0.913 SV%. Sooner, rather than later, there is going to be a goaltending spot open with the LA Kings and Villalta is trying to insert his name into that discussion. Unless he retires early, Jonathan Quick’s contract will be up after the 2022-23 season and that looks to be when Villalta could begin working on his NHL career.
The Kings’ third-round draft pick in 2017 is not quite ready for the big time, but the continued improvement like we’ve seen this season could give him an opportunity in LA.
A helpful schedule
The Reign are still in the hunt for the top of the Pacific Division. With 21 games left in the schedule, they have 68 points to Stockton’s 65. The Heat have three games in hand on Ontario so with a little luck, the Reign could continue this pace and take the lead as the games close in on the end of the season.
Since the move from Manchester to Ontario, the team hasn’t exactly struggled, but the post-season has been a bit of a trying time for the team. Following the Monarch’s Calder Cup win in 2015, the organization was moved west and defended their title into the Conference Final, losing to the Lake Erie (now Cleveland) Monsters. The Reign have a chance to set themselves up for a good playoff run, given their pace of play, and the performance of many of their players.
The two teams are back at it on Saturday at 6 pm PT.