Ontario, Calif.– A rare trip to the Midwest resulted in a win and a loss for the Reign, as they faced the Grand Rapids Griffins for the first time since April 2019.
Friday: Ontario 5, Grand Rapids 2
Everything seemed to click for the Reign on Friday against the Griffins, as they came away with a 5-2 win, with multipoint games for five different Ontario players and three power-play goals. A strong first period ended with a power-play goal from Jaret Anderson-Dolan, as he continues to get better and better. He is now up to 15 goals on the season, and it feels like he hasn’t reached peak performance yet. The Reign’s top line of Anderson-Dolan, Martin Frk, and TJ Tynan continues to be a killer for the rest of the league. The second period was a little more lively, as Austin Wagner scored his 10th of the season, Dan Renouf got the Griffins on the board, and then Frk joined the party, scoring his own power-play goal before the halfway point of the second. Frk’s 20th of the season would end up being the game-winner.
Here’s a live look at the Mayor of Grand Rapids in action pic.twitter.com/1LrGFS39na
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) February 5, 2022
The Griffins tried to make it interesting in the third, countering the Reign’s fourth goal (Samuel Fagemo) with a power-play goal of their own from Joe Veleno, recently returned from a stint with the Red Wings, but Alex Turcotte‘s sixth of the season would put the game to bed, giving the Reign the win.
Goaltender Matt Villalta was fantastic for Ontario, stopping 35 of 37 shots for the win. He continues to lead Reign goalies with a 2.55 GAA and a .915 save percentage and a record of 14-3-3 on the season. Only four goalies in the league have more wins.
Saturday: Grand Rapids 5, Ontario 3
Saturday was a different story for the Reign though, as they fell, 5-3, giving the Griffins their first-ever win over Ontario. Special teams played a huge role in this for both teams, as there were three shorthanded goals in the game (two from Grand Rapids, one from Ontario).
It started well for Ontario, as Gabe Vilardi opened the scoring with his 11th tally of the season, but the Griffins followed it with three first period goals of their own, one on the power play from Jonatan Berggren, Luke Witkowski‘s first of the season, and one from Jared McIsaac. The Reign would pull back to one with a shorthanded goal from Brett Sutter, but the penalty box would continue to be their undoing, as the Griffins scored back to back shorthanded goals in the second period, one from Veleno (who would end the series with four points), and one from Tyler Spezia. Anderson-Dolan scored his second of the weekend in the third period to make it 5-3, but with only 45 seconds left on the clock, it wouldn’t be enough, and the Griffins walked away with the win.
Love the Captain and Ol’ Wheels Wagner pic.twitter.com/1vNmxMCjCy
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) February 6, 2022
Reign goalie Jacob Ingham did his best, but with 23 first-period shots, he was fighting a losing battle from the jump. He would finish with 32 saves on 37 shots. (20 of those saves would come in the first period).
TJ Tynan continues to be the MVP for this team, as he recorded his 40th assist this weekend. He has a solid grip on second place in the entire AHL for points, with 48, only five behind first place. He leads the AHL in assists, however, seven ahead of second-place (Andrew Poturalski of Chicago). Tynan is currently on pace for 80 assists and 16 goals, meaning he could finish just shy of a hundred points this season. For context, the last time a full AHL season was played (2018-19), Tynan finished with 71 points in 71 games. The leading scorer was Carter Verhaeghe, with 82. Tynan has been held off the scoresheet in only 7 games so far this season. In those seven games, the Reign are 3-3-1. While there are still many games to be played this season, the case could be made that Tynan has a legitimate chance to be the MVP of the league, not just of the Reign.
King Of The Inland Empire
One has to once again give an honorable mention to TJ Tynan, who had a two-point night on Friday, but this weekend’s crown has to go to Jordan Spence. Spence was my defender selection for the Field Pass Hockey All-Star Game roster.
He had a very strong weekend with a three-assist effort in the win on Friday, and though he was held pointless in Saturday’s loss, he finished with two shots on goal and was a plus one on the evening (he and Cameron Gaunce were the only defensemen to finish with a positive plus-minus). So far this season, Spence has racked up 28 points, which leads all rookie defencemen in the AHL, third among all defencemen, and has a twelve-point lead on the next highest scoring defenceman on the Reign (Sean Durzi, who we likely won’t see in the AHL again this season, as he seems to have found a home on LA’s main roster).
This game is not going as intended but I’ve been focusing on watching Spence and he is a DELIGHT
— Locked On Los Angeles Kings (@LockedOnLAKings) February 6, 2022
Next weekend, the Reign face division leaders Stockton, as the Heat welcome them to town. The Reign are 1-2-1 so far this season against the Heat, most recently losing 2-1 at the end of January. The Reign are currently second in the division, three points behind the Heat, so this could be a weekend in which they retake their place at the top of the Pacific.
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