Colorado 4, Reign 3, OT.

Here’s how a 3-1 lead turns into a 4-3 overtime loss:

1. A short pass goes off a Reign stick and onto a Colorado stick. Shot, goal.
2. A hard pass goes off a Reign skate (possibly a body) and into the net.
3. An ill-timed line change results in an odd-man rush the other way for Colorado. A long, high shot — the Eagles’ only shot of overtime — goes into the top of the net.

Plenty of bad luck was involved in the final outcome, but it’s easier to say the Reign squandered a point Saturday than gained one. Leading 3-1 going into the third period, Colorado converted back-to-back power plays on a pair of good bounces to tie the game at 3. Luck aside, the same stifling defense that the Reign used in the first two periods (and in Friday’s win over Stockton) was conspicuously absent from the third period Saturday.

“We’re not stepping into the shot. Sticks weren’t into the lanes,” head coach Jason Christie said when talking about the overtime goal, but he may as well have been discussing the third period too.

Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. The Reign will visit the scrappy first-year ECHL franchise Friday and Saturday in Colorado, their first back-to-back road games of the season.

Some notes and observations:
Continue reading “Colorado 4, Reign 3, OT.” »

Reign 4, Stockton 2.

The Reign had a full week off since their last game and the practice seemed to pay off. They never trailed in their 4-2 win Friday, getting goals from Steven Tarasuk, C.J. Stretch, Matt Tassone and Francois Brisebois. Darcy Kuemper allowed a pair of breakaway goals to Ian O’Connor but made all the routine saves, and one amazing save in the final minute, among his 21 stops.

The power play finished 2-for-4 on the goals by Tarasuk and Stretch — the first goal of the year for both players — after going 2-for-22 to start the season. Dylan Yeo had two assists and Tassone, Tarasuk, Brisebois, Stretch, Brady Calla and Chris Huxley (making his Reign debut) had one assist each. Huxley was paired with Vincent LoVerde and both defensemen finished plus-2 for the game.

Christie had words of praise for Huxley, as well as a strong overall forechecking effort that stifled Stockton at even strength.

Derek Couture fought Garet Hunt in the first period (advantage: Couture), Shayne Neigum fought O’Connor in the second period (advantage: O’Connor), and Stretch nearly came to blows with Jordan Fulton late in the first period. A scrum just after the final horn sounded was broken up before it could fully materialize.

J-F Berube gets the start tomorrow.

Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for more. Here’s the official scoresheet.

AHL-to-California rumor rekindled.

A report on Thursday rekindled a long-simmering rumor that the American Hockey League is heading to the West Coast. Here was the crux of the news, as reported by Darren Dreger:

Sources tell TSN several NHL western conference teams are involved in
ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face
in trying to develop their players from afar.
Los Angeles,
Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary
attended a private meeting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly
earlier this month, where the group conceptually talked about the
introduction of a western wing to the American Hockey League to ease the
burden of travel on prospect players, as well as provide NHL teams with
a more hands on approach in day to day development.
Most in
that group are content with their existing AHL partnerships; however,
there are some who who like to see change and are considering a more
extreme approach if necessary.

Citing sources, Dreger says the next step for the interested NHL clubs is “to get a clear view of how realistic such a drastic move is, within the next 2-3 years.”

How does this affect Ontario? Right this second, it doesn’t.
Continue reading “AHL-to-California rumor rekindled.” »

New defenseman (#16) and other notes.

Chris Huxley was the co-captain at Harvard University last year. He played on the Crimson’s top defensive pair with a recent NHL draft pick, Danny Biega. He once was presented an academic/athletic excellence award (the John Carlton Memorial Award) by former Boston Bruin Johnny Bucyk.

Now, he’s just a number. Number 16 in the line of defensemen who have been under contract to the Reign since July 1, and number (TBA) in your program tomorrow night against the Stockton Thunder.

“He’s one of those durable guys that can come in and have a little offensive side to him,” coach Jason Christie said. “He’s a competitor.”

Huxley will give the Reign six defensemen — three full pairs — for the first (and only) time since the opening weekend of the regular season. Pat Bowen isn’t ready to be rushed into game action and Philippe Seydoux still doesn’t have his P-1 (work) visa. Christie hopes both players will be ready to go by next week.

A few more notes:
Continue reading “New defenseman (#16) and other notes.” »

Berube on Berube; other notes.

J-F Berube’s stats through his first two games with the Reign are, to put it bluntly, pretty bad: 0-2-0, a 4.55 goals-against average, and an .830 save percentage. The Kings’ fourth-round draft pick (2009) figures to get another chance at his first ECHL win this weekend against either Stockton on Friday or Colorado on Saturday.

The good news, from Berube’s perspective, is that he’s getting better with each start.

“I’m improving and I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m not too worried about my performances. There’s a lot of positive things and some negative that I have to work on. I have to build on the positive ones. I feel confident. It’s only two games.”

The 21-year-old said that the final score Saturday in Las Vegas, 4-1 in favor of the Wranglers, “doesn’t even tell my performance. I was able to see the puck a lot better.”

Two Vegas goals, he said, came as a result of shots from the point. Berube also allowed a two goals (out of five total) from beyond the faceoff circles during his opening-night loss to the Bakersfield Condors. He admits that he’s typically stronger handling shots from closer range than at a distance — which is a bit counter-intuitive — but part of the problem has been Berube’s ability to deal with traffic in front of him.

At a lanky 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, he’s not going to manhandle too many power forwards wandering through his crease, even ECHL power forwards. Ron Hextall isn’t the Kings’ minor-league goalie instructor but Kim Dillabaugh is. Dillabaugh will be in town starting tomorrow, and improving Berube’s ability to see pucks in traffic should be near the top of the to-do list.

Still, there’s a greater responsibility on the Reign defensemen to clear opponents out of the way so Berube can see the puck better, and block as many shots as possible from far range.

“When you’re away from the game and there’s traffic in front you have to battle a little more,” he said. “That was just one of the little things I have to work on this week and the upcoming week, to stop those pucks that came in.”

A few more notes:
Continue reading “Berube on Berube; other notes.” »

Weslosky released, Morrison suspended.

The Reign took one step toward the awaited resolution of their unusual four-goalie situation Wednesday, releasing Jase Weslosky from his contract. Weslosky started the Reign’s preseason opener and made 28 saves in a 4-2 loss to the Las Vegas Wranglers. He was the backup to J-F Berube for the first regular-season game, but never saw the ice again.

Weslosky, 22, came to the Reign last March in the trade that sent Dusty Collins to the Florida Everblades. He went 2-1-0 in four appearances with a 2.00 GAA and a .943 save percentage before being sidelined by a lower-body injury. Weslosky started last season in Idaho, played 20 games for the Steelheads, and finished with a combined 9-7-3 record, 2.79 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Once healthy, Weslosky re-signed with the Reign in July, when Karl Taylor was still the coach. He was one of three goalies, along with J-F Berube and Dustin Carlson, who made the opening-day roster. Coach Jason Christie elected to keep all three on the roster after the Minnesota Wild assigned Darcy Kuemper to Ontario prior to the second game of the season. Carlson is still on the team but Christie stated his desire last week to find a new address for both Carlson and Weslosky; it seems as if Weslosky will get to find his next team on his own.

One other procedural move Wednesday: Jordan Morrison was suspended. The Reign will retain his ECHL rights while he heads off to Austria.

Continue reading “Weslosky released, Morrison suspended.” »

Morrison to Europe; defenseman/goalie updates.

There were no new defensemen in practice, so the Reign roster had find another way to fluctuate Tuesday.

Jordan Morrison, who led the Reign in scoring last season, informed coach Jason Christie yesterday that he was leaving for the Erste Bank Eishockeyliga (First Bank Ice Hockey League), the top league in Austria. That’s about all we know right now; I spoke to Morrison briefly and he’s still got a few loose ends to tie up here. Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for more.

Morrison had no points and a minus-3 rating in three games this season.
He never seemed totally comfortable in Christie’s system and was squeezed out of
the center rotation (his natural position) by C.J. Stretch, Francois
Brisebois, Bill Bagron and newcomer Matt Tassone. Last season, Morrison rode a strong second half to finish with 20 goals and 55 points in 71 games.

The 25-year-old becomes the second player to head overseas since the season began. Defenseman Travis Gawryletz was the first.

Justin Taylor, who played 41 games for the Reign last season, also plays in the Austrian league for Ljubljana Olimpija HK.

A few more notes from practice:
Continue reading “Morrison to Europe; defenseman/goalie updates.” »

Chad Starling is released: ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’

For the first time in Reign history, Chad Starling is not on the roster.

The 31-year-old, who played more ECHL games in the 2000s than any defenseman, was released from his contract today. Speaking via phone from his home in Saskatchewan, Starling said he was notified this afternoon on a phone call with head coach Jason Christie.

“Didn’t have room,” Starling said. “He said he didn’t have enough apartments and didn’t have enough room on the IR.”

Starling never made it to Ontario this year because of an immigration issue — one we’ll explain in further detail soon — and was the victim both of bad luck and a numbers game. He played 158 games in a Reign uniform, trailing only David Walker (210) and Tim Kraus (159) in team history, but none since November of last year, when his season was cut short by a groin injury he sustained in practice.

Now healthy and approved to work in America, Starling has no place to play for the moment.

“I’m going to go home and unpack my truck and my clothes,” he said. “After getting screwed around for three weeks, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve got something to fall back on, my parents’ business. I’m lucky. Not all the guys have that. I’ve been playing for 10 years. I’ve been playing for a long time. My first year, the price of gas was 99 cents a gallon. A lot has changed since then.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Starling had three goals, 20 assists and 199 penalty minutes for the Reign playing the role of a stay-at-home, shutdown defenseman under Karl Taylor. He had played for Jason Christie before in ECHL stops with Peoria and Utah.

The Reign have a game tonight in Las Vegas.

New defenseman, plus a Chad Starling update.

Vincent LoVerde is the Reign’s newest defenseman. The rookie out of Miami (Ohio) University averaged 1.5 goals and 7.5 assists in his four-year college career, which ended when the top-seeded RedHawks were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March.

LoVerde wasn’t at practice Thursday but Jason Christie said he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night in Las Vegas. Eddie DelGrosso, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday, wasn’t at practice either and was still awaiting a physical. Christie is hopeful that DelGrosso can play, too.

Just to recap, then:

Jason Fredricks, Pat Bowen, Dylan Yeo, Chad Starling, Jordan Hill and Adrian van de Mosselaer signed over the summer. Jeff MacPhee, Iain McPhee and Travis Gawryletz signed during training camp. Steven Tarasuk, Mike Montgomery, Philippe Seydoux, JP Cote, Eddie DelGrosso and Vincent LoVerde either signed or were acquired through trade since the regular season began.

So even though the Reign have skated the same six defensemen in their first two regular-season games, 15 different blueliners have been under contract to the team since July 1.

Fifteen. Through two games. Let that sink in.
Continue reading “New defenseman, plus a Chad Starling update.” »

Changes coming, notes from practice. Update.

There were no changes on the ice at practice today, but that should change soon. Jason Christie is hoping to add another defenseman and said that the goalie situation — the Reign have four, two more than logic dictates they should have — could be resolved later today. I’ll pass along updates as I get them.

One thing that probably won’t change: Bill Bagron will center Brady Calla and Chris Cloud. The 29-year-old pivot has scored one goal in every game so far this season, including the preseason. Not bad for a guy who scored 13 goals in four college seasons, and has played all but seven of his 214 career games below the ECHL level. More from him in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Here were the forward lines and defense pairings (same as yesterday):
     Jordan Morrison-C.J. Stretch-Derek Couture
     J.D. Watt-Francois Brisebois-Geoff Irwin
     Chris Cloud-Bill Bagron-Brady Calla
     Shayne Neigum-Matt Tassone-Jeff MacPhee

     Dylan Yeo-Mike Montgomery
     JP Cote-Steve Tarasuk
     Iain McPhee-Philippe Seydoux

Update (2:55 p.m.): MacPhee and McPhee were both placed on waivers today, ending the MacPhee-McPhee D-pair experiment after only one game, and halting the ECHL careers of both players after two games (for now).

Defenseman Eddie DelGrosso was claimed off waivers from the Las Vegas Wranglers. DelGrosso played against the Reign in the preseason and had no points, and two penalty minutes, in two regular-season games. The Las Vegas native had three goals and 11 points in 29 games for the Wranglers at the end of last season, his first in the ECHL.

The 26-year-old also played eight games in Europe last season. In 2009-10, after his final season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, DelGrosso played eight games with the Springfield Falcons. His numbers in college indicate that DelGrosso can add some offense, if not size (listed at 5-10, 198 pounds)  to the Reign blue line.

Incidentally, the Reign are third in the ECHL waiver priority order until the end of the month, whereupon priority will be given in reverse order of winning percentage. Chicago and Colorado, the two first-year ECHL franchises, are currently first and second in the waiver priority order.