ONT: Cameron Gaunce (7) ASST T.J. Tynan (78)
Here are three things that stood out on Friday.
1. The arrival of David Hrenak
The depth of the LA Kings organization is truly astounding. From Quinton Byfield to Brock Faber, the team has been developing a solid pipeline that will be the bane of existence for many clubs for years to come. As the rebuild chugged along, the Kings selected new pieces to replace the old and one of those was David Hrenak. Drafted in the 5th round (144th overall) of the 2018 draft, Hrenak looked to be a solid goaltender, posting a .919 save percentage and a 2.11 goals-against average this season at St. Cloud State University. Los Angeles is hoping this will end up being a draft steal, however, as Hrenak has posted no save percentage below .904 in the four seasons following his draft. With an overall record of 68-37-12 and nine shutouts in college, Hrenak used that time to perfect his game.
The Slovakia-native is the sixth goalie to suit up for the Reign this season. In his AHL debut on Friday, he turned away all 25 shots he faced, earning his first professional win and shutout all at once. Though at points of the game he wasn’t overly tested, he made several key saves while the game was still close, including a first-period breakaway save on Hunter Drew.
Standing 6’2”, this 23-year-old could be a future starting goaltender for an organization that will need one in the coming years. Here’s to a great future for a player who should make an impact going forward.
2. Playoff Primer
It is looking like the Reign and Gulls will be the matchup in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. The opening round in the Pacific Division is a best-of-three series.
After Friday, the two have met eleven times, with the Reign having an 8-3 record. Much better than last season’s 3-5-2-0 record against the Gulls. Of those 11 games, the winning team has scored five goals five times. The scores of the matchups have shown that the Reign are pushing the Gulls to the brink of their goal-scoring abilities. Ontario outscored San Diego 20-10 in their first five meetings. Even in a three-game series, though, these teams will push each other pretty hard, and winning the series for either team is going to be a challenge.
Looking forward to this being a hard-fought three-game series.
3. If you aren’t first…
There are worse things in this world. After the Manchester Monarchs won the Calder Cup in 2015 and were moved to Ontario, there was a lot of good to see in the team. Their cup defense was a solid season with a Division title. They went all the way to the Conference Final before being swept by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Since then, the Reign has not come close to that kind of success. Finishing third in the division for a couple of years and then falling into the lower ranks. They have made the playoffs in some of those years, though never advancing past the first round.
What the Reign really missed out on this season is the first-round bye. Throughout the season, Ontario has been leading or chasing the Stockton Heat for the top seed in the division. Unfortunately, that race all but came to the end at the beginning of April. Ontario went on a bit of a skid, dropping three straight games to start the month (one of those being to Stockton, of course) while the Heat went on a 4-0-0-1 run to create separation. It’s short stretches like this that can determine the standings sometimes.
Ontario may have missed out on the bye, but they will be hosting the first-round best-of-three and are in a position to host round two should they advance.
The Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls will meet one more time in the regular season on Saturday.
(Main photo credit: Ontario Reign)