As with any sport, the value of an ECHL preseason game lies less in getting a win as much as assessing the team’s talent, deciding who to keep and who to cut.
“We’ll try to get everybody in and if not, oh well. That’s life,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said.
In a way, this is an even more delicate exercise in the ECHL, with so much turnover from year to year (although the Reign have a particularly high retention rate — 12 of the 30 players who appeared in a game last season are back). But for more than half of his 27 players, Karl Taylor has no frame of reference for how they’ll execute for him in a game. On the other hand, there can be as much turnover during the ECHL season as the off-season because of AHL recalls, injuries, trades, and the occasional roster cut. Maybe none of the players on tonight’s roster will make it through to the end of the season in Ontario.
That said, here they are:
Mike Zacharias, Curtis Darling (goalies); Chad Starling, Brian Kilburg, Shawn Germain, Cameron Cepek, Dan Knapp, Mike Egener (defensemen); Tyler Mugford, Peter Lenes, Todd Jackson, Dwight King, James McEwan, Jon Francisco, Brian Matte, Greg Hogeboom, Michael Pelech, Mike Howe, Doug Spooner, Joel Irving (forwards).
That leaves out defensemen David Walker and Andrew Martens, and forwards Jon Rheault, Dan Leslie, Tim Kraus and Tony Voce. Forwards Robert Pearce and Chris Curran are injured.
“We’ll probably give older guys, or guys who we feel will be here, one game. Give more room to guys who are fighting for jobs,” Taylor said. “Lots of guys are great in practice. Lots of guys who are bad in practice play very well in games. We’d like to get everyone at least one game.”
Don’t look much into forward line combinations or defensive pairings.
“Everyone’s going to do everything this weekend,” Taylor said. “Hopefully they feel they got a good look to show us what they can do in every role possible.
“When the game gets down to it, we’re going to try to win the game. If we don’t win the game, it’s not the end of the world. We’re going to evaluate the players. We’re going to coach within the game, but not too much. We want them to figure out on their own a little bit so we can see who understands what we’ve taught for the last week and who doesn’t. We want to se them work hard and execute our game plan. Usually during the games it shows through pretty quickly.”
If you’re not making the trip to Orleans Arena, you can follow the game on ECHL.com.
12:20 p.m. update: Mike Zacharias was practicing with the non-game players today at Center Ice Arena, and will back up Curtis Darling in goal tonight.