I was able to catch up with Jon Francisco over the phone last weekend. The first captain in team history was not an easy man to get because he did not have a traditional end-of-season meeting with Karl Taylor at the same time as his teammates. That’s because Francisco missed the last four-plus months of the season after undergoing multiple knee surgeries.
After our chat, I figured I was the only person in the city of Ontario who’s had a hard time catching up with Francisco. Read on:
The Manchester Monarchs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Kings and Reign, saw their season end Saturday in an overtime heartbreaker.
Ryan Potulny wristed a shot past a screened Jeff Zatkoff at 3:07 of overtime, giving the Binghamton Senators the 6-5 win in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series. Manchester came back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1, and took a brief 5-4 lead on a goal by Dwight King at 10:19 of the third period.
But Binghamton’s Erik Condra scored with 1:45 left in the third period to tie the game at 5. Potulny’s overtime goal was his fifth point of the game, including four assists.
Zatkoff relieved Martin Jones after Condra’s first goal of the game, 56 seconds into the second period. Jordan Hill had an assist and finished plus-1 — much better statistically than center Brayden Schenn, The Hockey News‘ No. 1 overall prospect, who was held scoreless and finished minus-5 matched against the line of Potulny, Colin Greening and Ryan Keller (two goals).
King and Bud Holloway both finished with a goal and an assist. Jordan Nolan also had an assist. Jones stopped 13 of 16 shots, while Zatkoff stopped 20 of 23.
It was the first Game 7 played at home in the franchise’s 10-year history.
Shawn Germain, who sounded ready to retire after playing his last game with the Reign earlier this month, is lacing up his skates again — in the American Hockey League.
The 28-year-old defenseman was signed to a pro tryout agreement Friday by the Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs continue Calder Cup playoff action tonight against the Binghamton Senators.
Germain hasn’t appeared in an AHL game since his second professional season of 2006-07. A true journeyman, he’s appeared in 299 games between the ECHL and Central Hockey League in the meantime. In 2010-11 with the Reign, he set a career high for goals in a single pro season (four) despite missing the season’s first two-plus months while contemplating retirement. He also had 10 assists and 23 penalty minutes in 43 games.
Germain’s previous AHL experience consists of one game with the Hershey Bears on Dec. 30, 2006. He went scoreless with two penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating.
The Reign released figures for the team’s fundraising efforts throughout the 2010-11 season: $320,106 for the seven jersey auctions, $6,740 for local Boy Scout troops through special ticket sales, and $178,600 in tickets and memorabilia donated by the Hope Reigns foundation to local charities.
The grand total: $505,446.
“The great fans of the Ontario Reign continue to demonstrate that they are the most generous in all of professional hockey,” President Justin Kemp said in a statement. “In three short seasons, we have given more than one million dollars back to the community and it is all due to the tremendous support of our fans!”
Justin Taylor’s season followed the typical Reign trajectory. He got off to a slow start then picked up his game in the second half.
When the 28-year-old left wing arrived from Idaho as a midseason pick-up, he was often slotted in as the 10th forward. After missing nearly three weeks in January and February with a back injury, he became a regular on the top line. Taylor had four goals, nine points and was a plus-1 in his final 12 games.
An update from the AHL, where the number of Reign players on playoff rosters dropped by one Tuesday.
The Manchester Monarchs released Chaz Johnson just two days before their first-round series with the Binghamton Senators — Johnson’s last AHL employer — was scheduled to begin. Johnson appeared in four games with the Monarchs, skating as a bottom-six right wing, collecting two penalty minutes and no points in four games.
Still dotting AHL rosters are Dwight King, Bud Holloway, Jordan Nolan, Patrick Mullen, Jordan Hill, Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff (Manchester); Beau Erickson (Peoria); Geoff Walker (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton); Andrew Martens (Lake Erie) and Colten Teubert (Oklahoma City).
Including Jon Rheault, who ended the season with the Abbotsford Heat (who didn’t make the Calder Cup playoffs), that’s 12 former Reign players who ended the regular season at the next level.
Kyle Kraemer turned 26 last month, but had the same ups and downs of any rookie in his first pro season.
At times, his speed and offensive instincts made him a dangerous player. At other times, his hesitation without the puck made him a liability. Kraemer came back from a midseason knee injury that cost him 18 games to post some respectable numbers – 16 goals and 37 points in 54 games, along with 37 penalty minutes and a minus-8 rating.
C.J. Stretch was familiar to many in Citizens Business Bank Arena before the season started, having grown up about an hour down the road in Irvine and honing his skills on the local rinks. He also appeared in one game at the end of last season for the Reign after his final season in the Western Hockey League ended.
The head start may have helped, but Stretch still took some time to gain the trust of Karl Taylor. He finished with nine goals, 12 assists and a minus-8 rating in 46 games, but it was really a tale of two seasons for Stretch. His first 26 games: 3G, 5A. His final 20: 6G, 7A.
James McEwan started the season and ended the season on injured reserve. Such is life for an ECHL tough guy.
But between the time he got back from off-season wrist surgery, and was lost to a torn rotator cuff (which will require surgery, scheduled for next Thursday), McEwan often showed what makes him an effective, attractive commodity at the ECHL level. He led the team in penalty minutes (146) in only 36 games, exactly half the season. The third-year pro also chipped in with two goals, two assists and a minus-5 rating.