Expect a starting goalie matchup of Beau Erickson for the Reign and Bryan Pitton for the Stockton Thunder, based on the looks of things at the morning skate for both teams today at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Erickson was in goal for wins Friday and Saturday against Elmira, while Mike Zacharias took the only loss of the weekend. But Erickson won despite allowing nine goals in the two games, while Zacharias only allowed two goals in the loss.
Reign coach Karl Taylor is hoping one goalie will make the decision-making process easier.
“We’re trying to get someone to take the ball and run with it. We prefer to have one guy,” Taylor said. “We’ll see.”
Taylor’s decision to play five defensemen against the Elmira Jackals last weekend was about as clear-cut as who to start in goal.
“Against Elmira, their forwards have so much speed, so there’s two ways you can look at it,” Taylor said. “You need more ‘D’, more rested ‘D’, or you need more forwards to play in their end longer. It depends on how you want to look at it. We decided we felt having an extra forward would allow us to stay up ice more, forecheck more, pressure more in their zone and take away more of their offense through the neutral zone, not allowing them to come at us on the attack.
“It worked some of the time. Some of the time they still exploited us. I thought our D handled it well.”
Taylor also used forwards Alex Bourret and Shawn Collymore at the point position on the power play to ease the minutes burden on the defensemen.
“The hard part is if you lose a guy. Germs (Shawn Germain) got into a fight (Sunday), now you’re down to four. There’s pros and cons.”
Stockton plays a different, tighter game than Elmira, so don’t be surprised if Taylor uses six D-men tonight. The blue line might get a boost from the addition of Jordan Hill, who has missed the last three games with a leg injury. He will be a game-time decision.
Chad Starling will not, but the injured veteran began skating on his own Sunday and was able to provide an update on his timetable. He skated on his own for about an hour today, and will continue to skate on his own for another week and a half. After that, he’ll practice with the team for two weeks without engaging in contact, then will try two weeks of contact drills before rejoining the lineup.
That projects to a return on or around March 27 — assuming, of course, that there are no setbacks in his recovery from hip adductor and sports hernia surgery in January.
The Reign have a series of three games in four days in Idaho that ends March 26, then don’t play again until hosting Bakersfield on March 30.