Manor Reign Recap: Ontario Extends Winning Streak to Five; Portillo with Another Victory


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member
Jul 28, 2004

With the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs looming next month, the Ontario Reign hosted Abbotsford on Sunday evening at Toyota Arena in a matchup that could very well mirror what’s to come.

Ontario came out of the gates with a tremendous effort – reversing a troubling trend of poor starts during their February losing streak. By the second intermission began, the home team held a 20-10 shot advantage against the Canucks, yet faced a 1-0 deficit on that scoreboard. That line goal against came on a shorthanded breakaway by the visitors.

In the final period of regulation, the Reign pressured with intensity and fired 15 shots on net to mount their comeback. Freshman Francesco Pinelli (7) found a rebound quickly in front of the net and lifted the puck past the Abbotsford goalie in tight to tie the game 1-1 with half a period still to play.

Then, with just 2:25 remaining in a game that seemed primed for overtime, rookie newcomer Luke Rowe (1) skated to the red line and slapshot the puck on net for a routine dump play; however, the Canucks goaltender struggled with the puck. It eventually trickled between his pads and across the line for a goal, giving the Reign a late lead.

Coming off signing his first professional contract out of college less than a week ago and playing in just his second professional game ever, Rowe probably didn’t dream up his first AHL goal like that – but it stood as a memorable game-winning goal that led his team to a 2-1 victory.


— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) March 4, 2024

The win marked five straight for the Reign, tying their season-high streak and moved them to a record of 6-1-0-1 in the past eight games. Ontario also now’s sits 10 points ahead of the playoff cut line in the Pacific Division standings.

First-Year Pinelli: There have been the usual growing pains and mix of incredible moments for the first-year forward, who joined Ontario this season after completing his OHL career. Coming off a season in which he scored 41 goals for the Kitchener Rangers, starting this season with just one goal in his first 12 games probably wasn’t the 20-year-old had in mind.

Like nearly every young player faces once they turn pro, Pinelli has had to make adjustments to his game throughout the season. Although he probably expected more from himself this year, coach Marco Sturm was full of compliments when asked about the Kings 2021 Draft selection (second round) after the game on Sunday — “There was a lot he had to learn and now I feel like he’s found a home in the fourth center spot and he’s been really solid the last few weeks…[His confidence] is still climbing…He wants to be a difference maker and those kind of goals gives him the confidence that he can be.”

Pinelli s goal against the Canucks was his second in the past three games. He also scored his first AHL goal against Abbotsford earlier this season too.

Unlikely He-Rowe: The 6-foot-1, 198lb Air Force Academy graduate may be the new guy, but he’s catching his coach’s attention quickly. Paired with the dependable Joe Hicketts, Rowe has contributed a game-winning goal, a plus-two rating, and six shots this far in his two AHL games. In fact, he tied for the lead among all Reign skaters with five shots against Abbotsford.

Sturm has been pleased with his newest addition thus far — “[Rowe’s] way better than we thought, and [that has] nothing to do with the goal he had today. It’s the way he prepares the right way. He plays hard. There’s no 50-60-70 percent – everything is one hundred percent.”

The Return of Hicketts: Ontario’s improved play over the past eight games has been noticeable, and there’s hardly a coincidence that it’s coincided with Hicketts’ return from nearly a season-long injury. He had primary assists on both the game-tying and game-winning goals, and is now up to 12 points (1G, 11A) since rejoining the action eight games ago.

In the absence of Jacob Moverare and Brandt Clarke (on NHL recalls), Ontario will lean heavily on impact players like Hicketts in their remaining 19 games before the playoffs.

Portillo Extends Streak: With yet another stellar win by the lumbering rookie, Portillo extended his streak to five games in a row of allowing only two or fewer goals against. Since the end of January, the Swede has an impressive record of 4-1-0-2, along with a 1.714 goals against average and .941 save percentage.

Sum of the Week: The Reign Train continues to steam forward. They began the week by playing two bottom-dwelling teams in the Pacific Division, and defeating both in convincing fashion. Ontario handedly blew out San Jose 8-2 and shut out their rivals from San Diego 3-0. Then, to win a tight, playoff-like game against a good Abbotsford team they desperately wanted points from, there should be optimism growing from Sturm and his players.

The Reign have one game before March 8th’s NHL Trade Deadline – a rematch with Abbotsford Wednesday at home – and then a single weekend game on Sunday in Calgary.

There will most likely be some paper transactions from the Kings this week, where it appears players are headed to the Reign when they really aren’t. See here for more information.


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