It’s playoff time as your Ontario Reign will face off against the Colorado Eagles in a best-of-three series in the first round.
24 hours… pic.twitter.com/l9n3f8HrTz
— X – Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) April 19, 2023
Tale of the tape
ONT: 34-32-5-1 (24th)
COL: 40-22-7-3 (7th)
ONT: 206 (27th)
COL: 210 (26th)
ONT: 211 (11th)
COL: 187 (3rd)
ONT: 22.2% (7th)
COL: 18.1% (21st)
ONT: 84.4% (2nd)
COL: 81.0% (17th)
Here’s a preview of how the teams matchup:
These teams meet again. The Colorado Eagles eliminated the Ontario Reign in the Pacific Division playoff tournament in 2021 and swept them in the second round last year. Last year’s series wasn’t close as the Eagles beat up the Reign in the physicality department and on the scoreboard, outscoring the Reign 20-7 in the three games. The teams split the eight games this season and all three games of this series will be in Colorado which makes it tougher for a young Ontario squad.
Both teams didn’t light the lamp as much this year. Colorado’s leading scorer, Charles Hudon, had 54 points and led the team in goals with 26, while Ontario’s leading scorer was TJ Tynan with 81 points and Lias Andersson led the team with 31 goals. The Eagles entered the season losing five of their top six scorers from last season due to free agency and have often been challenged offensively. It hasn’t been reigning (pun intended) goals either this season for Ontario. Lately, they’ve had trouble scoring goals 5-on-5. That’s going to have to change for Ontario if they want any shot at winning this series. I expect this series to be low scoring.
Defense and goaltending
Colorado has been excellent in these two categories this year. On defense they had five skaters score 20 or more points and are very physical. They are also very good in net too. In last year’s series Eagles netminder, Justus Annunen shut down the Reign’s offense allowing seven goals in three games and coming up big on the penalty kill. Annunen, Jonas Johansson, and/or Keith Kinkaid will be relied upon between the pipes by the Eagles in this series. Among qualified goalies in the AHL, Johansson ranked 4th in save percentage (.920), Annunen ranked 6th (.916) and Kinkaid ranked 18th (.911).
For the Reign, they’ve relied mostly upon Cal Petersen this year and I expect him to be the starter in this series. It’s been an up-and-down year for Petersen as the Kings hoped he could get his game back on track and it hasn’t gone to plan. I do think Petersen is capable of stealing a game, but can he steal two?
As for the defense, the Reign will need to do a better job at limiting turnovers in their own end against a big, heavy forechecking team like Colorado. As for points, can someone other than Jordan Spence provide offense for the Reign on the blue line?
This is going to be huge. The Reign ranked in the top 10 in both the power play (7th) and penalty kill (2nd) while the Eagles were 21st on the power play and 17th on the penalty kill. The Reign have the edge in this series and must take advantage this time around against the Eagles’ penalty kill. In last year’s playoff series, the special teams battle was won by the Eagles as the high-scoring Reign offense was limited to one goal on the man advantage in twelve attempts. Winning the special teams battle will be huge for both.
Ryan Sikes: The Ontario Reign come limping into the postseason on a three-game losing streak and 3-6-1-0 over their final ten games of the season. Offensively, they stack up quite well with Colorado, finishing with just four fewer goals scored than the Eagles during the regular season. However, the Reign’s defense has been suspect, surrendering 211 goals to Colorado’s 187. Colorado comes into this series riding a four-game winning streak and points in their final eight contests. Added, should this series go the distance, all three games will be played in Loveland, Colorado. The Reign featured the best powerplay conversion (22.2%) and the second-best penalty kill (84.4%) in the Pacific Division. Marco Sturm’s squad certainly has a leg up on the Eagles on special teams, so they’ll need to make the most of their opportunities. Colorado received a sizeable contribution from the blue line, with five defensemen scoring 20 or more points during the regular season. The Reign had just two. Conversely, Ontario had six forwards with at least 30 points. The Eagles had four. The two teams split the season series 4-4, and I think the Reign can push the playoff matchup to three games. However, I think Colorado will be too much, especially with all three games being played on their home ice. Eagles in 3.
Kyle Garcia: Scoring and turnovers have been an issue for Ontario all season. Colorado has been very good at keeping the puck out of their net and causing turnovers on the forecheck. Cal Petersen is going to have to be on his A-game if the Reign want any chance of winning this series. I think he is capable of stealing a game, but with the Reign being inconsistent, having trouble scoring 5-on-5 at times throughout the year, and not getting much scoring from their bottom-six players, things may not go well for them. It doesn’t help that the series is being played in Colorado either, a tough building to play in. Eagles in 3.
Game 1 is tonight at 6:05 pm PT and can be seen on AHLTV.
Featured image credit: Ontario Reign