One more note from Saturday’s game: The Reign’s second mascot, a dragon which has gone by “The Dragon” since he was first introduced, will now be known as “Blaze.” The winner was announced during the first period Saturday. I think the winner’s name was Derek.
Possibly the most exciting game since the arena was built, and the second-largest crowd ever for a Reign game (8,532) got to see it.
Not that Karl Taylor enjoyed sweating through his team’s worst defensive effort of the year. The most goals the Reign had previously allowed in a game was 5, against Utah on one occasion and against Victoria twice last week. Tonight, they surrendered three unanswered goals during a five-minute span in the third period to see a healthy 6-3 lead evaporate.
Somehow, some way, they turned things around dramatically in overtime, allowing only one shot to reach Murray and blocking several more, the most critical stops coming with Utah holding a 4-on-3 advantage during the final two minutes.
John Murray was named to the ECHL all-star game to replace Jeff Zatkoff on Saturday. Zatkoff left during the third period of the Reign’s OT loss to the Utah Grizzlies on Friday with an undisclosed injury. It’s safe to assume the two events are related. But whether Zatkoff is being held out of the game next Wednesday as a mere precaution, or because of an injury that would prevent him from playing a regular game, remains to be seen.
The 21-year-old Murray is 11-8-1 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.51 and a save percentage of . 926 in 21 games for Ontario.
Update: Zatkoff went on 3-day injured reserve today and Briggs (who went on 3-day IR Wednesday, not Thursday) came off.
Goaltender John Murray came on in relief after Jeff Zatkoff tweaked a muscle midway through the third period, and coughed up a 3-2 lead by allowing two Utah goals on eight shots.
Denny Johnston is an original Ontario Reign signee, but has never played an ECHL game in his life. Why?
The 26-year-old center made the Manchester Monarchs’ AHL roster out of training camp, signed a Pro Tryout agreement, and never came back. Johnston notched a goal and an assist through his first four games, didn’t score over the next six, then went on injured reserve in early December and never played again. According to the Union-Leader of Manchester N.H., Johnston was healthy enough to practice when the team released him from his Tryout contract yesterday.
Something to keep your eye on today: The Manitoba Moose of the AHL released defenseman Andrew Martens, who started the season with the Reign before signing a Pro Tryout contract with the Moose in December.
Martens notched five assists in his first six games, but was held scoreless in his past five amid decreasing playing time. Winnipeg Sun columnist Ken Wiebe, in his midseason grades column, graded Martens a “C-minus” with these comments:
Plenty of offensive upside as a power-play specialist, a big shot that gets through but has some major defensive deficiencies to work on.
Martens still belongs to the Reign, so expect him back as early as tonight for a game in Phoenix, or for a Friday-Saturday double at CBBA against Utah.
7 p.m. update: Martens is back and in the lineup against Phoenix.
The Kings have reassigned goaltender Jeff Zatkoff to the Reign, who have a game tonight in Phoenix, and recalled G Danny Taylor from Reading to Manchester of the AHL. The move is likely designed to get Zatkoff more playing time; he had played just three games in a little less than a month in Manchester, where Jonathan Bernier is the starter.
That gives the Reign three goalies: Kellen Briggs, John Murray and Zatkoff. Ironically Murray, who started the last 12 games, could be the odd man out. After coming off IR in December, Briggs has been patiently testing a preseason groin injury in practice but hasn’t appeared in a game yet. Barring a setback, he was already expected to make his debut before the end of the month.
Zatkoff did pretty well in his first three AHL appearances, going 1-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Update: Zatkoff is back and started tonight in Phoenix. Briggs has been placed on 3-day IR.
The Ontario Reign will hold an informational meeting this Saturday, January 17, for all fans interested in becoming a charter member of the Ontario Reign Booster Club. The meeting will be held at the Citizens Business Bank Arena at 5:30 p.m. just prior to the Reign versus Grizzlies game. All fans interested in attending the meeting should meet at the Citizens Business Bank Arena Administrative offices on the south side of the arena by 5:15 p.m. to be escorted to the meeting area.
Itan Chavira fans, rejoice: The Phillips Ranch resident scored his first professional goal on a power play in the first period of the Reign’s 5-2 loss to the Victoria Salmon Kings on Saturday night.
The bad news: the loss means the Reign get swept by the ECHL’s hottest team, winners of 15 straight, and head to Phoenix on Wednesday riding a four-game losing streak of their own.
More details in tomorrow’s editions, along with a phat pheature detailing the team’s survival methods in a crappy economy.
A few observations from my morning boarding up at Mountain High.