Injury updates, and more (!) from practice.

The Reign became four teams of four in practice Monday. Their goal: Scoring goals.

“Our whole goal today was to have a whole scoring practice,” coach Karl Taylor said. “Obviously we’ve struggled with that. That was our focus today. We were out there for an hour and 45 minutes, it was based on scoring and having some competition within it.

“We can’t complain about our defensive play, although at times it’s gotten lax and there are things we need to improve. We have to score more. That’s our number one issue. We have to try to get guys attentive to details and creating more chances.”

As they have each of the last two ECHL seasons, the Reign rank last in the league in goals per game.

Right wing Chaz Johnson, who left midway through Saturday’s game in Bakersfield, was back on the ice after suffering a recurrence of the same shoulder injury that cost him three games in November. He said he expects to play Friday.

Chad Starling (lower body) is hopeful he can come back this weekend too, but he hasn’t been cleared to practice yet. The veteran defenseman, who is eligible to come off 21-day IR on Friday, worked out off the ice.

David Walker also missed practice, taking a “maintenance day” often given to veteran players. Also off the ice were forward Jon Francisco and defenseman Eric Doyle, both of whom remain on IR.

As for the competition, the “black team” of Kyle Kraemer, Lane Caffaro, Dusty Collins and Shawn Collymore were the big winners.

Bakersfield 4, Reign 1.

A chance to match the Bakersfield Condors in the Western Conference standings turned into the Reign’s third straight loss Saturday.

After Bakersfield’s Vyacheslav Trukhno opened the scoring at 2:27 of the first period, Aaron Lewadniuk answered with a power-play goal – his seventh goal of the season and his fourth in six December gamesĀ - 40 seconds later. Kyle Kraemer and Jordan Morrison picked up the assists.

The first period also featured three fights, starting with James McEwan and Bakersfield’s Erick Lizon dropping gloves only 19 seconds after the opening faceoff. Chaz Johnson, Justin Taylor and Michael Pelech also were hit with fighting majors before the game was over. In all, the teams combined for 90 minutes worth of penalties.

But the Reign would get no closer on the scoreboard, as they were outshot 41-23. Erik Burgdoerfer’s goal gave the Condors a 2-1 lead at 15:39 of the first period, and Stephane Goulet and Trukhno scored 18 seconds apart in the second period to provide the final score.

Kellen Briggs made 37 saves in the loss, his ECHL-leading 12th loss of the season. The Reign (8-14-0-1) could have matched the Condors in the standings with a win, but instead remained in last place in the Western Conference, four points behind the Condors (10-13-1-0).

The Reign played with only five defensemen because Jordan Hill was loaned to the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs prior to the game.

Utah 1, Reign 0, plus a bunch of notes that didn’t make the paper.

One fan suggested that he would wear a bag over his head to the next home game – an understandable choice after the Reign’s 10th loss in 11 games at The Bank.

In reality, Friday’s loss wasn’t particularly difficult to watch; the Reign just had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. No lines looked the same as they did in Wednesday’s 7-3 thrashing at the hands of the Las Vegas Wranglers. Some actually displayed tangible chemistry, namely that of Aaron Lewadniuk, Shawn Collymore and Chaz Johnson. Jeff Corey, Justin Taylor and Kyle Kraemer – playing his first game since Oct. 27 – had their moments, too.

The only moment that mattered came at 12:37 of the second period, when Simon Ferguson’s second-chance whack at the net past Beau Erickson crossed the line for the game’s only goal.

Erickson showed no rust in his first 60-minute game since September. Kellen Briggs’ streak of consecutive starts ended at 18.

The Reign drew three power plays in a six-minute span late in the third period, and skated 6-on-5 for the final minute, but couldn’t bury the equalizer.

James McEwan re-entered the lineup and played sparingly, but he did fight with the much larger Nick Tuzzolino (6-5, 225 to 6-0, 191) in the third period. He landed one clean punch to the face with his left hand – the same hand that was surgically repaired in the off-season – so McEwan passed his first major test in his first game back.

The Reign travel to play the Bakersfield Condors at 7 p.m. tonight at Rabobank Arena.

Here are a few notes that won’t make tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin:
Continue reading

Kraus: ‘I knew it was coming.’ Update.

Tim Kraus may have been the least surprised of anyone when he was placed on waivers Friday.

An original member of the Reign, the center from Garden Grove had been a healthy scratch in four straight games.

“I suggested to Karl that I wanted to be moved and he tried to move me, I believe,” Kraus said. “I think I talked to him early in the week. I think he tried to get me into a good situation but it wasn’t going to happen through trade.”
Continue reading

Las Vegas 7, Reign 3.

The Reign’s home woes continued in the form of their ninth loss in 10 tries at The Bank.

Coming off a fight-filled, emotionally charged win Saturday in Utah, none of it translated to Wednesday’s game. Las Vegas scored three goals in the first 6:34 – two on the power play – and never looked back.

The Reign got the game as close as 5-3 late in the third period, but Vegas killed two Reign power plays and scored twice late to turn the game into a blowout.

Dusty Collins, Jordan Morrison and Chaz Johnson scored for the Reign, who put only 15 shots on Michael Ouzas – one off their season low. Kellen Briggs allowed all seven goals on 26 Wranglers shots, but could share the blame for all seven.

Las Vegas was missing its leading scorer, Ned Lukacevic, who had flu-like symptoms.

More in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

McEwan won’t debut tonight.

James McEwan won’t make his debut tonight for the Reign. McEwan went from the non-roster “previous injury status” to 3-day injured reserve.

Adding him gives the Reign 24 players counting IR and the active roster, which sounds like a lot, but Karl Taylor said “we’re a little bit crowded, we’re not overly crowded,” and right now there’s room for everyone on the payroll and in the team apartments.

Kyle Kraemer (knee), Eric Doyle (upper-body), Chad Starling (lower-body) and Jon Francisco (lower-body) all remain on IR. Doyle, who was transferred from 3-day to 7-day IR, said he isn’t sure if his current upper-body injury is related to the last one. Starling was transferred from 7-day to 21-day IR and can be activated a week from Friday.

The Reign host the Las Vegas Wranglers at 7 p.m. at The Bank.

Today’s notebook, and an important alumni update.

In case you missed it, here is today’s notebook – dailybulletin.com/reign/ci_16794893.

It didn’t occur to me that Martin Jones might have appeared in enough games to qualify for the AHL goaltending leaders … but he has, and check out who’s first in the league in goals-against average and second in save percentage.

It seems like it’s been a long time, but Jones collected his first professional win in a Reign uniform this season less than two months ago.

Monday practice notes.

James McEwan was in the building Monday but hasn’t received doctor’s clearance to take part in practice yet. He looked to be in good shape and sounded like he’s in good spirits. Here’s a pretty detailed article out of his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, about McEwan’s rehab process.

It was a small group on the ice, as Karl Taylor gave about half the team an extra day of rest. Brett O’Malley, Kyle Kraemer, Jordan Morrison, C.J. Stretch, Chaz Johnson, Aaron Lewadniuk, Tim Kraus, Pat Bowen, Jordan Hill, Matt Delahey and Beau Erickson all practiced.

Plenty more in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin about McEwan, Bowen and tracking down a few alumni as always.

Reign 3, Utah 2, OT.

It’s beginning to sound like a melodic broken record, but the Reign pulled out a close win on the road Saturday night.

Jeff Corey’s goal at 1:34 of overtime lifted the Reign to victory in a physically charged game in Utah. Back-to-back wins over the Grizzlies have given the Reign an 8-11-0-1 record, matching Bakersfield in the Pacific Division standings with 17 points. Because the Condors have a game in hand, the Reign can technically say they’re out of last place for the first time since Nov. 13.

Corey’s goal was his team-leading eighth of the season. He took a long pass from David Walker and fired it past Andrew Engelage for his second game-winning goal of the season. Walker’s assist was his second of the game and his team-leading 11th on the year.

Aaron Lewadniuk’s sixth goal of the season, during a first-period power play, opened the scoring midway through the first period. Dusty Collins made it 2-0 in the middle period with his second goal this season.

Utah answered with goals from Matt Clarke and Nick Tuzzolino, the latter coming with 5:00 left in the third period.

Starting his 18th consecutive game, Kellen Briggs made 37 saves on a night that saw Utah outshoot the Reign 39-24. The teams combined for nearly as many penalty minutes (60) as shots (63), including a second-period fight between Michael Pelech and Utah’s Marcus Carroll. Ten of the game’s 24 penalties were for roughing, including a pair that were charged to former Reign defenseman Brian Kilburg.

The Reign are unbeaten in five road games in November and December, and all five wins have been by a single goal. Their home record during that span is 1-7, with only a shootout win against the Las Vegas Wranglers in the win column.

The lineup looked the same for the third straight night but that could change against the Wranglers on Wednesday, especially if James McEwan (among others) is cleared to play and gets the nod to make his season debut from coach Karl Taylor.

Reign 4, Utah 3.

There’s no place like home, but there’s been no place better for the Reign than the road.

A 4-3 win over the Utah Grizzlies on Friday at the E-Center was the Reign’s fourth straight win away from The Bank. Goals by Aaron Lewadniuk, Chaz Johnson, Michael Pelech (short-handed) and Lane Caffaro ended the Reign’s losing skid at 2, and toppled the best team in the Western Conference.

The Reign played with the same lineup as they did in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. Defenseman Pat Bowen played his second straight game in favor of Eric Doyle and Matt Delahey; Chad Starling (lower-body injury) is still on IR. Forwards Kyle Kraemer (knee) and Jon Francisco (lower-body) remained out, and center Tim Kraus was scratched again.

Kellen Briggs made his 17th straight start and stopped 31 of 34.

Pelech also had an assist, as did Luke Beaverson, Brett O’Malley and Jordan Hill.

The two teams meet again at 6 p.m. tonight. More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.