Photo credit: Ontario Reign

The Ontario Reign clinched second place in the Pacific Division and home ice in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs with their 5-2 win over the San Diego Gulls on Saturday.

After going down earlier on a Trevor Carrick goal less than five minutes in, the Reign responded 30 seconds later with Captain Brett Sutter evening the score.

Later in the period, Ontario took a lead they would not relinquish when Samuel Helenius scored his first career AHL goal.

In the middle frame, things started to get feisty between the two likely first-round opponents. Newcomer Taylor Ward dropped the gloves for the first time in his professional career in a good bout with Nikolas Brouillard.

It wasn’t until late in the period that the goals would come. On a delayed penalty, Nelson Nogier followed the play up ice and, after Akil Thomas laid off a pass to him just inside the Gulls’ zone, fired a rocket past Olle Eriksson Ek.

The goal was Nogier’s first in a Reign uniform.

San Diego would get one back late in the second to trim the Ontario lead to one heading into the third.

In the final period, it was a familiar duo that added some insurance for the visitors. T.J. Tynan led the rush through the neutral zone, dropped a pass to Martin Frk inside the San Diego blueline and the Czech winger did the rest.

It was goal number 39 for Frk and assist number 79 for Tynan. The two are fifth (71) and first (92) in the AHL in points respectively.

Austin Wagner added an empty-net goal and Matthew Villalta turned away 29 shots en route to his 27th win of the season.

Though Ontario has clinched second place, first place in the Pacific is still within reach. They trail the Stockton Heat by three points with four games remaining. The Heat have five games left.

The next three games for the Reign will all be in Colorado against the third-place Eagles. In the three games against Colorado this season, Ontario is 1-1-1.

Aided by Tucson Roadrunners’ loss, the Gulls also clinched a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Though they have an outside chance at catching sixth place Henderson, it’s much more likely that they’ll finish seventh and have a date with Ontario.

Worth noting – defenseman Helge Grans missed his third straight game on Saturday. He’s been out this past week with an injury. He joins a number of players out due to injury at the end of the season. With second place clinched, there isn’t a need to rush anyone back. We’ll see if the Reign gets some healthy bodies back for the playoffs.

Ontario is back in action on Wednesday in Colorado.

(Main photo credit: Ontario Reign)

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