Manor Ontario Reign Lineup at Coachella Valley Firebirds; Plus Important Turcotte Update


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Later this week, the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival gets underway. However, the best thing happening in the Palm Desert area may just be tonight’s hockey game between the Firebirds and Reign — going down about 12 miles from the Indio Polo Grounds.

And what was already lining up to be a banger of a contest just had the heat turned up even higher within the past few hours.

As one of the best teams in the AHL since the calendar flipped to 2024, including riding a current seven game-winning streak, Ontario has propelled themselves up to second place in the Pacific Division with only six games remaining on their 2023-24 schedule. They currently sit 12 points behind first-place Coachella Valley, so they’d not only have to win out to catch the Firebirds, they’d need a lot of other things to fall their way. It’s not likely.

Even so, tonight’s matchup at Acrisure Arena gives coach Marco Sturm an opportunity to test his club with less than two weeks remaining before postseason action kicks off. He’s already on record as saying he believes Coachella Valley and Bakersfield are the top two teams. Thus, this game should serve as a good litmus test for just how good the Reign are at the moment.

After the Reign won the first two games in their eight-game season series with a pair of shutouts, they traded wins and losses with the Firebirds over the next five games. If the pattern hold true, Sturm’s team would come away with a victory tonight.

Their last meeting came nearly a month ago at Toyota Arena in Ontario. It was a game the home team was leading 2-1 after 40 minutes. They then trailed 3-2 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation when captain T.J. Tynan scored to even things up. The game was eventually settled in a shootout, with Coachella Valley taking a 4-3 win.

Leading goal scorer Sammy Fagemo has five goals in five games vs. the Firebirds this season.

Andre Lee has scored in all three games since returning from injury. They’ve all been big goals; of the game-tying, go-ahead, or game-winning variety.

In even bigger news, though, forward Alex Turcotte was assigned to Ontario earlier today on a conditioning assignment. Essentially, he is still on LTIR at the NHL level (and remains on the Kings salary cap). Yet, he has been out of action long enough that the organization was allowed to assign him to the Reign for a conditioning assignment, which should last through the end of the regular season. We have confirmed, he is expected to play tonight. Given what’s been clicking of late, combined with it being his first game back, it will be interesting to see if Sturm slots Turcotte in at wing or center. Below is only a projection, as it was prepared after the conditioning assignment came through. Theoretically, Turcotte could be the 2C, on the third line, or even draw in on the fourth line.

At practice on Tuesday, Jacob Doty returned to the fourth line, flipping spots with Hayden Hodgson. There was also some shifting on defense, as Kevin Connauton didn’t slot into his normal position on the second pair; Kings prospect Kim Nousiainen was up there instead. The former appears to be banged up at the moment, as he skated on his own later.

Neither of the newly signed college players (signed to PTO contracts) — forward Quinn Olson and defenseman Jack Millar — are expected to play tonight.

In net, we’re expecting veteran Aaron Dell to get the start. He’s 7-3-1 on the season with a .914 save percentage. Over that span, he’s also seen Coachella Valley twice, posting a 0-1-1 record.


Chromiak – Tynan – Fagemo
Ward – Pinelli – Madden
Lee – Helenius – Turcotte
Hodgson – Pavlychev – Doty

Hicketts – Clarke
Nousiainen – Santini
Krygier – Wylie

Dell (starter)

Other roster options include: (F) Olson, Young and (D) Connauton, Inamoto, Millar

Injured: Rowe (lower body)

Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm Pacific Time and the game can be viewed on AHL TV.


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