It has been brought to my attention that the game story from the Reign’s 4-0 win over the Stockton Thunder never made it online.
So, for anyone who missed it …
Kellen Briggs hasn’t played a game in more than six months. He hasn’t played a game in a Reign uniform in almost 20 months.
Yet the goaltender looked right at home between the pipes before 5,262 in attendance at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday, stopping all 40 shots he faced as the Reign closed the preseason with a 4-0 win over the Stockton Thunder.
“The win is more enjoyable than the shutout,” Briggs said, “because we’re moving forward from yesterday.”
On Friday, the Reign lost 6-2 to the same Thunder team at Stockton Arena – well, mostly the same, save NHL goaltending prospect Tyson Sexsmith, plus recent AHL forwards Chris Lawrence, Craig Valette and Jim McKenzie.
Reign coach Karl Taylor acknowledged the difference in Stockton’s lineup, but also acknowledged the change in his team, with only a different goaltender between the pipes.
The line of Aaron Lewadniuk, Tim Kraus and Kyle Kraemer combined for three of the four goals. Kraemer had a goal and two assists, Kraus had a goal and an assist, and Lewadniuk had two helpers.
Kraus said he played briefly with Kraemer this summer in a roller hockey game, but had never skated with Lewadniuk before.
“We may have a line there,” Taylor said. “They complement each other really well. We’ll see how that progresses.”
Veteran defenseman David Walker had two goals, both on deep one-timers past Stockton goalie Jason Lindner. Daniel Lombardi and Jon Francisco picked up their first points of the preseason by assisting on Walker’s second goal.
The game also featured the first fight at The Bank since an ESPN2 boxing card in June. Chaz Johnson leveled the Thunder’s Trevor Hunt in the first period, then got in a couple more punches before being sent off the ice.
While entertaining for fans, the game left Taylor with some tough choices to make before the regular season begins Friday in Stockton. The most difficult is in goal, where Briggs, Garrett Zemlak and Mike Zacharias are in competition for one position. Friday’s starter Martin Jones, a Kings prospect assigned to the Reign, is guaranteed the other spot.
Even though Briggs played the whole game Saturday and didn’t allow a goal, Taylor said nothing has been decided yet.
“We’re watching them practice,” Taylor said. “Garrett was in tough. He had something he had to get checked out so he was off the ice for two days, which kind of hung him up a little bit.
“It’s a difficult process,” he continued. “Then Briggsy tonight, he’s running the shutout, so it’s hard not to leave him in there to have the opportunity to continue. Are you going to pull a guy with a no-hitter? Pretty hard to do.”