The Ontario Reign have gotten good goaltending this season, and the improved season of Matthew Villalta has been a reason why.

Last season Villalta was the primary starter for the Ontario Reign. In 46 games last year, Villalta had a record of 28-10-4-3, a 2.98 GAA, and a .903 save percentage. It was a step in the right direction when you compare those numbers to his 2020-2021 season. With the addition of Pheonix Copley, Villalta occupied the backup role this season. Both Copley and Villalta gave the Ontario Reign a chance every game and even stole a few games early in the season.

When Copley got called up to the LA Kings, and Cal Petersen cleared waivers and was assigned to the Reign in December, Petersen has taken most of the starts. Since December 2nd, Petersen has started in 24 games compared to Villalta’s ten games. After being the starter last season and being mainly used as a backup this year, many players would take that as a demotion. Not Villalta though. The move hasn’t affected his play this season at all.

In 17 games this year (16 starts), Villalta has a record of 11-5-0-0, a 2.36 GAA, a .921 save percentage, and a shutout. His goals against average (GAA) and save percentage have improved from last season. In his last five games (all wins), Villalta has recorded a save percentage of .900 or higher. He has allowed two goals or less in four of those games. With the Reign being outshot in most of those games, they’ve needed Villalta to make some big saves for them. He has answered the call and has come up with those big saves when the Reign need them.

He ranks 5th in both save percentage and goals against average among qualified goalies in the AHL. Known as an athletic goaltender, Villalta’s technique and positioning have improved and the numbers show it. This season Villalta has been dialed in, looks calm in the net, and squared to the shooters.

Villalta has deserved a call-up. However, with Quick being on the roster and the organization not wanting to waive or healthy scratch him (it seems like), and the Kings in the thick of a playoff race, that call-up may not happen this season. However, life is full of surprises and anything can change. Villalta is a restricted free agent this summer, and it’s obvious the Kings should and will bring him back.

Featured image credit: Henderson Silver Knights

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