Manor Reign Recap: Another Thomas Goal Earns Reign Third Straight Victory

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Nothing spurs ‘practicing for playoffs’ like playing a late-season match-up against a very likely first round opponent. That’s just what happened in Sunday’s matinee at Toyota Arena when Ontario hosted Bakersfield.

The Reign took the ice missing their second and third highest points scorers Samuel Fagemo and Charles Hudon due to injury (Update Here), so coach Marco Sturm challenged his players before the game to actively find offense to fill the shoes of their critical forwards – and they answered the call early.

Playing a considerably physical effort and commanding most of the pressure, the home team charged out of the gates with an early goal just 2:52 into the start of the game. Kings prospect Brandt Clarke slipped down the boards beneath the goal line and centered a pass to Akil Thomas (20) in the slot for a one-timer, point-blank, to make it 1-0.

He's picking up where he left off! @AkilThomas2 Strikes first for the Reign!#ReignTrain | #BAKvsONT | @CDFZone pic.twitter.com/7W0eT9ZmWW

— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) March 24, 2024


Ontario outshot the visitors 8-5 in the first, and starting goalie Erik Portillo kept the opponents off the board.

Heading into the second period, Bakersfield saw a surge of their own when the Reign allowed a rare power play goal against to tie the game at 1-1; however, with help from the bottom six forwards, goals from Nikita Pavlychev (4) and Jacob Doty (5) settled the middle frame with a healthy 3-1 lead for the home team.

Momentum swung in favor of the Condors when they scored just 1:28 into the third period, closing the score to 3-2. Surprisingly, this was the second goal the Reign allowed on the power play in the game. Ontario displayed a smart shut-down style throughout the remainder of the game, until Thomas (21) sprung a break late in the game to make it 4-2 with an empty net goal.

Bakersfield briefly made it exciting by scoring with 14 seconds remaining in regulation – though the Reign slammed the door on the visitors and won 4-3.

It was their third victory in a row and a bounce-back from Ontario’s 4-0 blowout loss suffered in Bakersfield the week prior. After this lively affair, both sides have plenty to look forward to, as they’ll finish out their season series with a pair of games, one each in the other team’s home building.

Ontario has earned points in 12 of the past 14 games and is sitting two points out of second place in the Pacific Division.

Akil Thomas: What more can be said about The Real Deal? Oh, except that he’s riding a three-game goal streak (4G, 2A) that includes three straight game-winning-goals. Thomas now leads the entire AHL with nine GWGs.

Clarke’s Streak: When Clarke was sent down from Los Angeles to Ontario a few weeks ago, there appeared to be a brief adjustment period in the 21-year-old’s play. More recently, though, the rookie defender has turned things around, picking up three points (all assists) over his past five games along with a plus-2 rating.

Erik Portillo: The rookie goaltender started in his first consecutive start in nearly a month. Sturm has used a two-goalie rotation but decided to go back to Portillo after his win in the prior game. Omtario’s 23-year-old netminder has earned points in nine of his last 11 starts, has modest two-game personal winning streak, and boasts a 19-10-3 record. Over the 2023-24 season, the Swede ranks second among all qualified goaltenders with a .924 save percentage

Week in Review: Ontario had a perfect, going 3-0 while picking up six points in the standings. All three opponents were potential adversaries in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs – and they outscored that trio of teams for a combined 10-5 goal differential.

The Reign will fly up to San Jose next, where they’re scheduled to face the Barracuda on Wednesday — who sit worst in the Pacific Division. They’ll then come home to close out next weekend in a Saturday re-match against Bakersfield. Only 10 games remain on Omtario’s regular season slate, putting all eyes are on the playoffs.

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