If you just tuned in to Reign hockey — and judging by the announced crowd of 9,592, that’s quite a few of you — you’re probably wondering why this team has no chance of making the playoffs.
There are many reasons, most of which have been absent from the team’s play the last two weeks. The Reign will take their best five-game stretch of the season (four wins in their last five games) into today’s season finale after a punchless win over Idaho.
Beau Erickson made 31 saves, getting some help from his goal frame and some inaccurate Idaho shots, as well as goals by Michael Pelech, Jordan Morrison and Brett O’Malley.
Both teams were punchless, literally. No penalties were called until David Walker was whistled for hooking with 1:45 to play. It would have been only the fourth penalty-free game in ECHL history, the last coming in a March 30, 2003 game between the Augusta Lynx and Pee Dee Pride.
For the first time all season, all three forward lines are doing their jobs; all three defensive pairs seem to be communicating well and moving the puck up the ice; and the goaltenders are making up for the skaters’ mistakes — maybe the most critical component to sustaining success at this level.
“Since Christmastime, we’ve been .500, right around there, somewhere in that ballpark,” Erickson said. “I think we found our niche and ran out of time.”
That’s one theory. I’ve been collecting a few. Get all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
• Forward James McEwan was placed on 3-day injured reserve prior to the game, meaning he won’t be eligible to play in the season finale, either. Defenseman Doug Krantz came off IR and played sparingly, switching in with Craig Gaudet.
• Jase Weslosky served as the backup for the first time since sustaining his lower-body injury, and suited up for the first time in five games. Shane Connolly was scratched. Karl Taylor said he wasn’t sure whether or not Weslosky could play tomorrow. “He’s day-to-day,” Taylor said. Weslosky went 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .942 save percentage in three games with the Reign prior to the injury.
• Alex Bourret’s assist on Morrison’s goal, a tape-to-tape laser pass from the left half-wall to the front of the net, gave him points in six straight games.
• A silent auction of a Shawn Germain jersey raised $1,825 for the Matt Cook foundation.
• The Trenton Devils play the Reading Royals at 4 p.m. tomorrow, three hours before puck drop in Ontario. Trenton and the Reign share the lowest point total in the ECHL (60) and the Reign can at least avoid outright ownership of the cellar with a win.
• A late slide by the Utah Grizzlies has lifted the Reign out of last place in the ECHL in goals scored (191, compared to Utah’s 187). Utah plays Bakersfield at 7 p.m. tomorrow in its regular-season finale.
• Not much needs to be decided tomorrow playoff-wise, but the Pacific Division title is one of them. It’ll either be Bakersfield or Stockton.
• With three assists tomorrow, Morrison would match Tim Kraus’ team record for assists in a single season (37), which he set last year.