Martens signs with Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder.

Defenseman Andrew Martens, a member of the Reign since the team’s inaugural season, has signed with the Wichita (KS) Thunder of the Central Hockey League.

Martens was one of two signings (along with former Idaho Steelheads defenseman Kory Scoran) announced Saturday by Kevin McClelland, an NHL veteran who is beginning his first season as the Thunder’s head coach.

The 29-year-old Martens spent the entire 2009-10 season in Ontario, recovering from a slow start to post four goals and 37 points in 72 games. He split the 2008-09 season between the Reign (7+24=31 in 48 games) and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (0+5=5 in 11 games) and Toronto Marlies (1+5=6 in 16 games).

Martens showed improvement in his defensive game last season, but will be missed more for his offense. He was the Reign’s strongest skating defenseman and his breakaway potential made him one of the team’s more exciting players.

He also holds the distinction of having scored the first goal in franchise history, both in the Reign’s first preseason game and in their first regular-season game.

Schedule irks.

Karl Taylor did have something positive to say about the Reign’s 2010-11 schedule.

“It’s better than last year,” the head coach said, “which is not saying a whole lot.”

Among the first things Taylor noticed was a less than ideal stretch of six out of seven games on the road to start the season. Then there was the similar number of games against other Pacific Division teams (35 total, including 20 at home and 15 on the road), and against West Division teams (34 total, including 11 at home and 23 on the road).

“We play Victoria once at home and five times on the road,” he said. “We play Vegas seven times at home and twice there. … Nothing makes sense to it based on the number of times you play different teams, so that’s interesting.”
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2010-11 schedule announced.

Compared to last season, the ECHL schedule makers will be doing the Reign a favor in 2010-11.

Though only one out of their first seven regular-season games will be played at home – Saturday, October 23 against the Stockton Thunder – the schedule gets relatively normal from there. No homestand will last longer than six games, nor will any road trip.

The only truly weird stretch features two non-consecutive home dates in 11 games spanning January and February. The last five of those games are on the road – back-to-back nights in Utah, a day off, back-to-back nights in Utah and Idaho, two days off, then a game in Bakersfield and a home game the next night against the Condors.

Other than that, there’s nothing compared to 15 out of 20 games on the road between December and January, which coincided with the Reign’s worst stretch of last season.

Among the highlights is a first-ever inter-conference series against the Elmira (NY) Jackals, Feb. 11-13, and a three-game homestand to end the regular season.

Click here for a pdf version of the full, 72-game schedule. Preseason games are not included.

Click below for a text version of the schedule:
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Retirement plans, Part III.

Todd Jackson’s ability to calculate odds is probably better than
yours or mine. So take him seriously when he says he is “better than 50
percent” retired.

The speedy forward, an original member of the
expansion Reign club, saw his production take a step back in 2009-10. After
posting 14 goals and 29 points in 57 games in 2008-09, Jackson had two
goals and six points this season as injuries limited him to just 18
games. Jackson broke his nose in practice during the season’s first
month and didn’t make his debut until December. All told, it was
the toughest of his six professional seasons.

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Retirement plans, Part II.

Mike Howe said he is “not 100 percent for sure” retired, “but I’m starting to move on.”

Not in a literal sense. The native of Oakdale, Minnesota isn’t going anywhere for the moment, living in Ontario and enrolling in EMT school to become a firefighter.

“I played out here two years and (my wife and I) are addicted,” he said. “We love it out here.”
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Retirement plans, Part I.

With the ECHL season over, I’ll focus this space in the coming days on three Reign players who are considering retirement.

None of the three would completely rule out returning to hockey in 2010-11, but all are strongly considering their other options. A fourth player, Tony Voce, has already announced his retirement.

Dan Knapp said he’s “80 percent” retired.
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AHL playoffs: Manchester eliminated.

Boyd Kane’s overtime goal completed a comeback from a 2-0 third-period deficit as the Hershey Bears eliminated the Manchester Monarchs from the Calder Cup playoffs with a 3-2 victory.

Kane beat goaltender Jonathan Bernier at 7:06 of overtime, ensuring the Bears’ second straight trip to the Finals, where they will play either the Hamilton Bulldogs or the Texas Stars.

John Zeiler and Joe Piskula scored for Manchester. Their two former Reign forwards, Bud Holloway and Dwight King, did not factor into the scoring and former Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff did not appear in a playoff game.
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Hershey wins Game 5, takes 3-2 lead on Manchester.

The Hershey Bears beat the host Manchester Monarchs, 3-2 in overtime Thursday, handing the Monarchs a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals.

Dwight King assisted on a goal by fellow former Reign forward Bud Holloway at the 4:00  mark of the third period for the game’s first goal.

Hershey’s Chris Bourque tied the game at 2 with 51 seconds left in the third period, then assisted on Francois Bouchard’s game-winner at 10:38 of overtime.

Holloway has seven goals in 15 playoff games, while King has points in his last three. The Bears can close out the series at home on Saturday, and Hershey would also host a potential Game 7.

Cincinnati pushes Idaho to brink.

The Cincinnati Cyclones came one step closer to capturing their second Kelly Cup championship in three seasons Thursday, pushing the Idaho Steelheads to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 win at U.S. Bank Arena. The Cyclones lead the series three games to one, and can close it out with a victory at home Friday.

Cincinnati knows a little about being on the brink, having trailed the American Conference final series three games to none against the Reading Royals before staging a miracle comeback. Idaho would host Games 6 and 7 in Boise with a win Friday.