The Ontario Reign backup goaltending situation has been up and down all season. Aside from starter Matt Villalta having an improved season, the quality starts from the backup position has been few and far between.
Villalta’s play has shown improvements from last season, helping the Reign to one of the better records in the league. With the playoffs near, the Reign and Villalta will need to find comfort in knowing they have a backup ready to steal a game or two.
The backup position this year has included Jacob Ingham, Lukas Parik, Garret Sparks, John Lethemon, and now recently signed David Hrenak. Sparks was tabbed to be the veteran netminder, but has health with a few injuries this season, and is currently out of the lineup.
Although none of them have been horrible the stats could be better. Parik, Ingham, and Sparks have played well in their short stints with the Reign but have yet to show the consistency the Reign are looking for heading into the playoffs. Given the injury to Sparks, any one of the young goaltenders could be the playoff backup when the time comes.
While serving as the backup to Villalta, Sparks has gone 5-5 with a 3.25 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage. He also appeared in two games with the LA Kings, going 1-0 while posting a 1.85 GAA, and a .936 save percentage.
The 25-year-old Lethemon has been solid between the pipes, regardless of where he has played. His contract is up at season’s end but could remain with the organization if he does end up on the playoff roster and performs well. This season for the Reign, Lethemon has played in two games and is 2-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Those games came against the Henderson Silver Knights and Tuscon Roadrunners. With the ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits, he has an 11-11-5 record with a GAA of 2.60, and a .912 save percentage.
The Reign goalie carousel also consists of 21-year-old Jacob Ingham. With the Reign this season he has appeared in five games, posting a 4.29 GAA, .861 save %, and a 2-2-2 record. Ingham also played for the Swamp Rabbits, playing 16 games with a 9-5-2 record, a 2.71 goals-against average, and a .909 save percentage.
Parik, 21, has maybe been the best overall goaltender to play for the Reign this season. He’s played in five games for the Reign, going 3-0-1 with a 3.77 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage. When not in Ontario, Parik’s time has been spent with the Rapid City Rush of the ECHL. There, he’s appeared in 28 games, going 13-7-8 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
Newly signed Hrenak is a 23-year-old who has yet to play a game after completing his NCAA career at St. Cloud State. Hrenak was the Kings’ 144th overall pick in the 5th Round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He has a lot of promise and should see a few games with the Reign before the season’s end.
Though Villalta has been able to stay healthy through most of the season, the injuries – and brief call-up – to Sparks have forced the Reign to dip into the organization’s goaltending depth. This young group of goaltenders in the organization could be the future of the franchise and could lead the Reign to numerous playoff appearances in the future. They have the talent to shine at the AHL level and time will tell how long it will take for them to appear in Ontario as full-time goaltenders.