European merry-go-round begins.

The season is early, but the score looks good: Reign 2, Europe 1.

Travis Gawryletz was suspended by the team on Monday after the defenseman headed to the Czech Republic to play for HC Energie Karlovy Vary. Wikipedia notes that Karlovy Vary is “a spa city situated in western Bohemia, Czech Republic, on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplám,” so good for Travis.

In addition to defenseman Philippe Seydoux, who is already on the roster but still waiting for his B-1 (work) visa, the Reign added another European import. Defenseman JP Cote comes to the Reign via the DEL, the highest league in Germany, where he split the last two seasons between the Hamburg Freezers and the Kassel Huskies. The 29-year-old returned to the American Hockey League this season for a training-camp tryout with the Abbotsford Heat, but was recently cut.

Cote played in the AHL from 2003-09 before heading to Europe, interrupted only by an eight-game stint with the Montreal Canadiens in 2005-06. If he appears in a game with the Reign he will become the first player with prior NHL playing experience, excluding preseason games, to suit up for the franchise. Listed at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, he’ll be hard to miss.

More on his NHL time in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

One other newcomer to practice Tuesday: Center Matt Tassone, a 2008 draft pick by the Dallas Stars who wasn’t given a qualifying offer after taking part in the Stars’ NHL camp this year. Tassone was limited by injuries to 32 games last year with the Idaho Steelheads, the Stars’ ECHL affiliate, scoring seven goals and 10 points.

A few more notes:

Continue reading

Following up with Beau Erickson.

Two days after Beau Erickson’s candid rant against the Reign, both the goalie and his former team have moved on — the Reign with J-F Berube, Jase Weslosky and Dustin Carlson in goal; Erickson with a couple options on the table but still no contract.

I spoke with Erickson this afternoon on the phone, and he said he’s talked to two ECHL teams and three Central Hockey League teams since he was released. He’d like to make a decision about his playing future early next week and hasn’t ruled out retiring.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Erickson said. “I’m going to take some time and make the best decision for me.”

In subsequent conversations I’ve had since Erickson’s interview was published, one factual discrepancy emerged between the goalie’s version of the story and the team’s. Christie said he never got a call from any other ECHL team asking if Erickson was available. Erickson claims that one team, the Cincinnati Cyclones, did reach out to him directly.

“I know for a fact, and I can show you through my records, through text messages and e-mails, that a call was placed by Cincinnati the Friday before I arrived (at training camp),” said Erickson, who declined to elaborate on the substance of the conversations.

That might explain the discrepancy: Christie wasn’t turning teams away from Erickson’s services because he never got any calls about Erickson’s services. The goalie must have assumed otherwise, since one team reached out to him directly prior to camp.

Unless something else emerges, the remaining gray area is a matter of opinion — and that’s what makes sports great. Players, coaches and fans can all debate who should and shouldn’t make the opening-day roster, who should start and who should back up, who should be on what forward line and what defense pair.

And starting tonight, we can all watch some actual regular-season hockey.

As always, comments are welcome below.

Update (10/17): Something else emerged. I just got off the phone with Jarrod Skalde, the Cincinnati Cyclones’ head coach (the Cyclones were on the road all weekend). Erickson said that Skalde reached out to him directly the Friday before training camp. Skalde says he didn’t.

“I don’t even talk to agents about goalies at all. We always get a goalie from San Antonio and Milwaukee,” Skalde said. “I’ve never spoken to Beau or his agent. I tell everyone we have no room for goalies. Of course now, that’s not the case. I need one.”

And so we have yet another contradiction in the account of events. Regardless of who’s telling the truth — I provide this service merely to point out the contradiction — it’s a moot point as the Reign are concerned.

Reign 3, Stockton 2, shootout.

Darcy Kuemper was victorious in his ECHL debut and Geoff Irwin’s forehand past Olivier Roy was the game-winner in the Reign’s first win of the season Saturday night.

C.J. Stretch and Steven Tarasuk also scored shootout goals for the Reign (1-1), who get a respite until traveling to Vegas next Friday. Kuemper stopped 28 of 30 shots.

Bill Bagron deposited a beautiful backhand feed from Dylan Yeo at 16:12 of the second period for the game’s first goal. Francois Brisebois got the Reign’s only power-play goal in six tries with 3.5 seconds left in the middle period. Standing in front of the crease, he took a Derek Couture pass from behind the net – then took a shot in the back after poking the puck between the pads of Olivier Roy (33 saves).

Bagron and Brisebois both have two goals on the season.

Head coach Jason Christie liked the overall effort better than Friday’s.

“They stuck their nose in there and made some good plays,” he said. “That’s a key at this level – you have to win the battles. We’re losing battles down low, and it’s a rush against. We definitely have to make sure we get better on that.”

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. Here are a few more observations:

Continue reading

Kuemper gives Reign four goalies, two NHL prospects.

The Reign announced the addition of their fourth goaltender, and their second NHL-contracted player this season, Minnesota Wild prospect Darcy Kuemper.

Kuemper, 21, led all Western Hockey League goaltenders in wins (45), goals-against average (.933), save percentage (.933), and shutouts (13) in 2010-11 with the Red Deer Rebels. His 13 shutouts tied a WHL record and Red Deer posted the league’s second-best record. In seven playoff games, Kuemper went 4-3 with a 2.83 GAA and .896 save percentage as the Rebels were bounced in the second round.

At the Canadian Hockey League Awards Banquet, Kuemper won the Goaltender of the Year Award — a recognition that spans the WHL, OHL and QMJHL.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Wild in 2009, Kuemper signed his entry-level contract in May. His pro experience consists of four games with the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros, in 2009-10. The Wild were affiliated with the Bakersfield Condors last season but do not have an ECHL affiliate this season. So there was likely more than one possibility as to where Kuemper would begin his first full professional season.

Kuemper is listed as 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds on ECHL.com, and 6-5, 203 on the Wild’s website. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this tonight. Kuemper is listed as the 17th-best prospect in the Minnesota organization by hockeysfuture.com.

No corresponding roster move was announced Saturday, but Dustin Carlson was not listed on the team’s roster on ECHL.com.

Yeo named captain; Couture, Irwin alternates.

Defenseman Dylan Yeo was named the third captain of the Reign today, and forwards Derek Couture and Geoff Irwin will wear the alternate captain’s “A”s tonight when the season opens against the Bakersfield Condors.

Yeo, 25, last captained the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in 2006-07, a team that included future NHLers Karl Alzner, Ryan White, Alex Plante and Brodie Dupont, and current Kings prospects Martin Jones and Brandon Kozun. Among his unique duties in Calgary: Singing the national anthem.

The defenseman has never been a captain in his four professional seasons. Christie said that a team ballot was used to choose the captain and both alternates.

The head coach also said that Couture, a seventh-year pro, will be named a permanent alternate, while Irwin’s “A” could be rotated as players are added to the team. Irwin, 26, was only a rookie last year, but “he’s the type of hard-working guy that we like,” Christie said.

Jon Francisco (2008-09, 2009-10) and David Walker (2010-11) were the previous captains.

More from Yeo after tonight’s game.

Season-opening rosters released; new D-man; Seydoux out.

The Citizens Business Bank Arena ice was covered in tile Thursday morning for a graduation ceremony. That meant the Reign packed up and headed for Riverside Ice Town for the first, last and only off-site skate of training camp.

Iain McPhee didn’t make the drive down, but Jason Christie said the defenseman will play in tomorrow’s season opener against Bakersfield. Philippe Seydoux, who was able to play in the preseason on a tryout but still doesn’t have his U.S. B1 work visa, will not.

“Hopefully he’ll get cleared by Monday,” Christie said. “You’re allowed to play on a tryout, but you can’t play in the regular season without the right paperwork for immigration.”

One transaction was announced after practice: Second-year defenseman Steven Tarasuk was acquired from the Wheeling Nailers for cash. The 21-year-old Tarasuk had four goals and 25 points in 65 games as a rookie with the Kalamazoo Wings last season. A native of Thornhill, Ont., Tarasuk also had one assist in three regular-season games with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers and three assists in four ECHL playoff games last season. He fits the mold of the offensively skilled defenseman that Christie was seeking; Tarasuk had 19 goals and 67 points in 67 games in his final junior season for a powerhouse 2009-10 London Knights squad.

The five defensemen on the ice rotated partners. Here were the line rushes:

Derek Couture-Jordan Morrison-Francois Brisebois
J.D. Watt/Geoff Irwin-C.J. Stretch-Shayne Neigum
Chris Cloud/August Aiken-Bill Bagron-Brady Calla

The season-opening roster contained no surprises (except that Mike Montgomery, who has skated exclusively as a defenseman, was listed as a forward:

Continue reading

Irate Erickson rails against Christie.

Beau Erickson thought his job was more safe than it actually was. That’s the ultimate reason for the candid war of words waged Wednesday by the former Reign goalie against coach Jason Christie.

From the coach’s standpoint, the story goes like this:

Christie plans on playing J-F Berube a lot. The Kings’ 2009 fourth-round draft pick is fully healthy after off-season hip surgery and is eager to begin his first pro season. When picking a backup goalie, a player who might not appear in half the games over the course of a season, saving money is a priority. This has become a universal truth in the NHL and in this regard the ECHL is sometimes no different.

Even by the standards of the ECHL, where no player earned more than $26,000 last season, Erickson didn’t make much during his 29-game stint with the Reign. But it’s safe to say he got a raise over the summer and was set to make more than either Jase Weslosky or Dustin Carlson, who have 29 games of pro experience between them. Erickson and Weslosky were both re-signed by Karl Taylor, while Carlson was brought in on a tryout by Christie.

So when I asked Christie what went into the decision to cut Erickson, here’s what he had to say:
Continue reading

Beau Erickson is the lone cut as roster takes shape.

Wednesday was more a day of ecstasy than agony at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

When Reign coach Jason Christie submitted his first roster to the ECHL, Dustin Carlson, August Aiken and Jeff MacPhee were on it. All three were in training camp on tryout contracts, longshots to get an ECHL deal, but by virtue of some combination of luck and skill, they were among the chosen few. MacPhee called it “probably one of my proudest moments in hockey.”

The lone cut was Beau Erickson as head coach Jason Christie decided to keep three goalies for now — Kings prospect J-F Berube (who took part in his first practice), Jase Weslosky and Carlson.

Erickson, who appeared in 29 games for the Reign last season, didn’t have a bad camp. The 25-year-old allowed only one goal in 30 minutes in his only preseason action Sunday in Las Vegas. His glove was plenty sharp in practice, so what gave? More on that in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

A couple more notes:
Continue reading

Another defenseman hurt; first roster submitted tomorrow.

Iain McPhee left practice Tuesday with an upper-body injury, bringing the list of injured Reign defensemen to Way Too Many.

McPhee’s injury isn’t considered as serious as those to Jason Fredricks (knee) or Pat Bowen (lower-body), and Jason Christie didn’t let on a sense of urgency when he said he wanted to add another offensively skilled defenseman.

“(Dylan) Yeo and (Travis) Gawryletz, you can classify them right up there,” Christie said. “(Philippe) Seydoux came in and played well.”

New defenseman Mike Montgomery practiced but new goalie J-F Berube did not; the goalie was taking his physical today and should be on the ice tomorrow.

Tomorrow is important for another reason: Christie must submit his first roster to the ECHL by noon.

Coaches have to submit a roster daily once the season begins. The first
regular-season games aren’t until Friday, but Christie said the
league
wants the first rosters in tomorrow because that gives players who are
released a full two days to find
new homes.

The roster is limited to 20 active players plus injured reserve, while
staying beneath the league-mandated salary cap and team’s internal
budget. Assuming Bowen, Fredricks and left wing Kyle Kraemer
(lower-body) begin the season on IR, the Reign have 20 active players in
camp right now. Christie won’t keep four goalies, but said he might
keep three from the group of Berube, Jase Weslosky, Beau Erickson and
Dustin Carlson, at least for now. Carlson is in camp on a tryout, Weslosky and
Erickson have ECHL contracts, and Berube is basically guaranteed a spot
since he was assigned to Ontario by the Kings.

That might be the
only cut he has to make between now and noon tomorrow. “It’s not easy,”
Christie said. “Whether it’s goalies or forwards or defensemen, it’s
never good.”

A few more notes:

Continue reading