The Ontario Reign will look to bounce back from their 6-4 loss last night as they take on the Colorado Eagles for the final time this season.
Tale of the tape:
ONT: 28.1% (1st)
COL: 19.4% (15th)
ONT: 76.6% (27th)
COL: 76.2% (28th)
ONT: 258 (1st)
COL: 239 (5th)
ONT: 210 (16th)
COL: 206 (12th)
ONT: T.J. Tynan – 14 goals, 84 assists, 98 points
COL: Kiefer Sherwood – 36 goals, 38 assists, 74 points
Four things to watch for in tonight’s matchup:
1. Bounce back
The final score might indicate that the game was close, but it wasn’t. Last night’s loss put a dent in the Ontario Reign’s quest for overtaking the Stockton Heat for first place in the division. With the Heat losing in overtime and Ontario’s loss last night, the magic number for Stockton to clinch first place is down to one point.
Here are scenarios of how the Heat can clinch first place:
1. Stockon Heat win against the Bakersfield Condors tonight
2. Stockton Heat lose in overtime or shootout against the Bakersfield Condors tonight
3. Ontario Reign lose against the Colorado Eagles tonight
Ontario shouldn’t worry about that. What they should worry about is just bouncing back and giving a better performance than last night. The third period is where the Reign found their groove and started to put the puck in the back of the net. Prior to that, the first 40 minutes of the game were something the Reign would like to forget. Getting off to a better start should be a main point of emphasis especially since Colorado is a great home team.
Also, look for David Hrenak to possibly get the start in goal tonight. With it being a back-to-back in Colorado (altitude may be a factor) I would expect Reign head coach Chris Hajt to give Matthew Villalta the night off.
2. Power play red hot
The Ontario Reign power play is back. Every team’s game plan when playing the Reign is to stay out of the box as much as possible. With the Reign power play cooking all season long, they did hit a skid a couple of weeks ago. These past two games against Colorado, the Reign power play has been absolutely red hot going 6-for-10.
One area of success that has been noticeable in the Reign’s power play has been the use of the bumper position. At times it has been Samuel Fagemo, Gabriel Vilardi, or lately Akil Thomas (more on him in a minute). With T.J. Tynan on the right circle and Martin Frk on the opposite side, every team tries to take away that pass. That leaves a pass down low to Jaret Anderson-Dolan who can make a quick pass to Thomas in the bumper position. Here is an example.
Akil Thomas ties the game with a powerplay goal! #Reign
Assisted by: Anderson-Dolan(21), Tynan(74) pic.twitter.com/Ym4cY71ubS
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) April 11, 2022
Let’s see if the Reign power play can stay red hot tonight against a struggling Eagles penalty kill.
3. Akil Thomas stock rising?
Speaking of Akil Thomas, it’s good to see him producing again. It’s been a challenging year for the 22-year-old with the injuries he has dealt with and not scoring his first goal until March. Credit to Thomas though for not sulking and continuing to work hard and do what the coaches ask him to do. His hard work has paid off in the last several weeks. After scoring a hat trick Wednesday night (two power-play goals), he followed that up with another power-play goal and also added an assist on Friday. It was the first time this season he had back-to-back multi-point games and now has a three-game point streak. With the playoffs around the corner, he could add bottom-six scoring for the Reign if they plan to make a deep playoff run. But for now, let’s see if he can keep it going tonight.
4. T.J. Tynan assist tracker
You didn’t think I wasn’t going to mention T.J. Tynan, did you? Tynan recorded two assists last night to put him at 84 on the year. He is now five assists away from tying George “Red” Sullivan’s record of 89 assists in a season (1953-1954 with the Hershey Bears) and six away from breaking the record. Two games are remaining in the season for the Reign and if he wants to break that record he will need to average at least get three assists in both games. Keep track to see if he breaks the record in these last two games.
- Tynan has 98 points on the season which is tops in the AHL. If it stays that way at season’s end he will be the first player from the Ontario Reign to lead the AHL in points since they relocated from Manchester in 2015. The last player from the Ontario/Manchester franchise to lead the AHL in points was Brian O’Neill with 80 points in the 2014-2015 AHL season with the Manchester Monarchs.
- If Tynan gets two more points he will be at 100 on the season. He would become the first member of the Ontario Reign/Manchester Monarchs to hit the century mark in a season since Michael Cammalleri did it with 109 points in the 2004-2005 AHL season.
WHERE TO WATCH: The puck drops at 6:05 pm PT and can be seen on AHLTV.
(Main photo credit: Colorado Eagles)