HEAT (23-8-2-3) at REIGN (16-18-3-1)
7:00 p.m. | AHLTV | Spreaker | iHeartRadio | Fox Sports 1280
2019-20 Season Series: 3-2-0-0
2019-20 Heat Road Record: 14-3-0-2
2019-20 Reign Home Record: 5-7-3-1
Power Play – 36-for-137 (26.3%); 1st
Penalty Kill – 137-for-157 (87.3%); 2nd
Power Play – 19-for-151 (12.6%); 28th
Penalty Kill – 137-for-179 (76.5%); 31st
2019-20 Leading Scorers
Points – Gawdin (35)
Goals – Robinson/Philp (15)
Points – Frk (26)
Goals – Frk (16)
The Heat will look to do what they’ve done all year – respond to losses – with Friday’s game against the Reign. Stockton enters the game 7-0-0-0 on the year after going without a point in the game prior and owns an impressive 34-15 scoring margin in those games. Perhaps most impressive is that Stockton has been able to close out those wins emphatically, owning a 16-2 scoring differential in the third period. Stockton’s goalies have also stepped up with a .926 SVP in games following regulation losses. The Heat will also look to maintain their road game supremacy, Stockton coming into the game with an AHL-best 14-3-0-2 mark away from home ice this season in a tie with the Belleville Senators.
The Reign are struggling. Losers of three straight, seven of their last 10 and 17 of their last 25, Ontario is looking to find its footing and regain its mojo that led to an 8-3-2-0 start to the campaign. An Achilles heel of the squad has been falling behind early, Ontario scoring first in an AHL-worst 13 games – and the Reign are just 6-16-2-1 when the opponent is first to the back of the net. Ontario also will look to snap out of its home ice struggles, the Reign coming into the contest just 5-7-3-1 on home ice. It’s been over a month since their last home win, Ontario losing twice and spending most of their time on the road since a 4-3 win over Iowa on December 15.
US VS. THEM
Stockton has the 3-2 edge in a tight season series, but the Reign may be what the Heat need right now. For a club that was clicking at north of four goals per game through most of the season up to tonight’s game, the Heat offense has cooled of late – Stockton registering 10 goals over the last five games. Ontario, on the other hand, has allowed 20 goals over the club’s last three contests and has seen opponents strike for 30 over the last six. In the first five games of the season series, the Heat have totaled 20 goals compared to Ontario’s 15. Adam Ruzicka and Corey Schueneman have enjoyed seeing Ontario at the other end of the ice, each clicking at a point-per-game offensively with five points in five games against the Reign.
On paper, the special teams battle is a mismatch. Stockton has the league’s best complement of special teams, the Heat entering the day with the top power play (26.3-percent) and second-ranked penalty kill (87.3-percent), compared to Ontario coming in at 28th and 31st, respectively. Through five games in the season series, the Heat have gone 4-for-15 on the man-advantage while the Reign have been limited to just 2-for-18. Stockton, which went 0-for-3 on Wednesday, has gone empty on the power play in back-to-back games just once this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Heat – Adam Ruzicka
As noted above, Ruzicka really seems to like playing Ontario. He has 15 points in 35 games in his first AHL season, with five of those points (3g,2a) coming against the Reign. In those strong numbers lies his career-best three-point outing, when he netted a pair of goals and added an assist on November 27.
Reign – Martin Frk
He leads the team in points and goals, and he’s tied for second on Ontario’s roster in scoring against Stockton this season. Frk was the lone member of the team to score in the team’s Saturday contest against San Diego, and he has lit the lamp in back-to-back games coming into Friday’s matchup.