ONTARIO, Calif. – It was a four-point weekend for the Ontario Reign, going 2-0 against the San Diego Gulls. Reign forward TJ Tynan led the way with a five-point effort over those two games.
Saturday: Ontario 4, Stockton 3
The Reign’s top line continues to impress, as Martin Frk opened the scoring early in the first period. Jaret Anderson-Dolan continues to creep closer to his first twenty-goal season, as he scored his 18th of the year in the second. The Gulls answered back with a tally from Bryce Kindopp to narrow the score to 2-1. But Frk would score his second of the game less than 90 seconds later to give the Reign a 3-1 lead going into the third.
Brent Gates, Jr. tried to make things interesting with a goal to cut the lead early in the third to 3-2. But the Reign’s red-hot power-play struck with a goal from TJ Tynan with his third point of the game to make it 4-2. A late goal from Trevor Carrick with two and a half minutes left wouldn’t be enough, giving the Reign the 4-3 victory.
Goaltender Matt Villalta was good, allowing three goals on 28 shots. Ontario continues to outscore their defensive miscues, with an average of just over four goals scored a game versus just over three allowed in the first 42 games of the season.
Sunday: Ontario 4, Stockton 3
Sunday’s game started out a little shakier than Saturday’s for Ontario, as San Diego’s Gates, Jr. scored his second goal of the weekend for the only goal in the opening period.
Ontario responded less than two minutes in the second to tie it at one, with a goal from Tyler Madden, who scored his 13th of the year with an assist from TJ Tynan. The rest of the second period was a back-and-forth affair as teams traded goals. Hunter Drew scored his first of two in the game at 2:44 of the period, to give the Gulls a 2-1 edge. Ontario answered with two quick responses from Cameron Gaunce and Gabe Vilardi to jump into lead before the halfway point in the second.
Just 39 seconds past the game’s midway point, Drew scored his second of the game to tie the contest again. But, Vilardi played spoiler on the power play with his own second to make it 4-3 with under five minutes left in the second.
The third period was comprised entirely of unsuccessful chances and the Reign sailed into the new week with four extra points and now sit only two back of league leaders, the Stockton Heat.
Entering last weekend, the Reign had a season record of 4-1 against the Gulls. These pair of wins have increased their season series record to 6-1. Crucially, only one of those games has gone to overtime, which means the Reign hasn’t been handing out extra points to their division rival.
Also of note, this game was important for longtime Reign captain Brett Sutter, who celebrated his 1000th professional game recently.
Today, we’re talking four-point games, which are when a team is playing another team in their division, typically one directly above or below them in the standings. If the team ahead of them wins, they go from being two points ahead to being four points ahead. (This is why those three points against Stockton were so crucial last weekend!)
Because Ontario plays almost exclusively against divisional opponents, almost all of their games are four-point games, and why it’s important they finish as many games as they can in regulation.
This season, the Reign have been doing a pretty good job at it. Of their 27 wins so far, 22 of them have come in regulation, and four more have come in overtime, giving them a ROW (regulation and overtime wins) number of 26, second in the AHL only to Utica and Chicago who both have 28.
On the flip side, of their 42 games this season, they’ve lost six of them in extra time; three in a shootout and three in overtime, giving them a 5-3-3 record in games that go beyond regulation. While going to overtime or beyond in nearly a quarter of games is not ideal, Ontario has to try and start closing out games in regulation as much as they can.
King in the Inland Empire
Last week’s stat corner was about goaltending. So this week, I’m giving the crown to starting goaltender Matt Villalta, who played both games this weekend, making 42 of 48 saves and going 2-0. Of the eight goalies that have played in more games than him this season, only three have a better save percentage.
He was thrust into the starting role due to an injury to Garret Sparks, and has been seeing much more ice time than either he or the team expected. But Villalta has risen to the occasion, winning four of his last five starts, and seven of ten so far in 2022.
The Reign are headed to Henderson on Wednesday to play the Silver Knights for the first time since January 15, which was a 5-2 win for Ontario. Entering tomorrow night’s matchup, the Reign are 3-1 against Henderson this season.
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