Voting open for ECHL “Silver Skater” team.

This is usually the time of year when the ECHL is making preparations for its annual All-Star Game. However, for the first time since 1993, there will be no game this season.

In its stead is something much cheaper and arguably more fun. Through February 5, fans can vote online for the “2012 Silver Skater Fantasy Team,” a concept that seems entirely unique based on its description on the ECHL website.

Fans are allowed one vote per e-mail address to choose one player on each team who will wear a “special Silver Skater jersey” during a select home game. There are no criteria for how to vote. You could, conceivably, vote for the worst player on each team — although this appears to be discouraged by listing four players under each team’s logo (they all seem to be having good seasons). Write-in votes are allowed, however. The top two vote-getters will wear the special jersey.

We don’t know what the jerseys will look like, but an educated guess is that the snazzy logo you see at right will be featured prominently. No word yet as to when the Reign have scheduled their “Silver Skater” home game.

The four Reign players listed are C.J. Stretch, Derek Couture, Vincent LoVerde and Chris Huxley. It’s tempting to list the merits of each player at this point, but since there really are no voting criteria, it’s hard to tell where to begin. (Who looks best in silver??)

Still, as alternate ideas go, this one has its merits. The concept of minor-league all-star games is inherently flawed, since the best players in the league are getting promoted to the AHL on a daily basis. Staging a game is a logistical headache — just ask anyone who was around when the ECHL All-Star Game was played at CBBA in 2010. This is less formal and less expensive and, thus, more appropriate to the concept. Even if it has no criteria.

Trade brings Lewadniuk back to Pacific Division; more notes.

Former Reign forward Aaron Lewadniuk probably planned on making three trips to Ontario before this season ended — two in February, one in March. Now he figure to make just one, on Monday.

The Idaho Steelheads traded Lewadniuk to the Bakersfield Condors on Thursday for forward Michael Gergen. The struggling Condors (8-24-3-1), already 13 points behind the Steelheads for the seventh and final playoff position in the ECHL’s Western Conference, visit the Reign for a rare 1 p.m. game Monday at CBBA. That is Bakersfield’s only road game against the Reign the rest of the way; the Condors also host the Reign Jan. 27 and 28.

Lewadniuk has seven goals and six assists in 31 games this season for the Steelheads. In his first game against his former team, Lewadniuk scored a goal last Friday in a 5-1 loss to the Reign — the only goal the Reign have allowed in their last four games.

Incidentally: Geoff Irwin, the player Lewadniuk was traded for, has eight goals and 10 assists in 30 games this season.

Here are some facts and figures that didn’t make the game story from the Reign’s latest blowout, a 6-0 shutout against Las Vegas last night:
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Change on D, other notes from practice.

Monday’s practice at Citizens Business Bank Arena was the last for Sean Murray in a Reign uniform, at least for now.

Murray was released Monday afternoon, probably not coincidentally the same day Mike Montgomery was released from his tryout contract with the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros. The timing of the move suggests that Montgomery could well be in the lineup Wednesday, when the Reign host the Las Vegas Wranglers.

In five games with the Reign, playing exclusively as a third-pair defenseman, Murray was scoreless with a minus-1 rating. Montgomery was a minus-5 with no points in 18 games for the Reign during two separate stints.

A couple more notes from practice:
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Berube in goal, plus more notes.

J-F Berube will get his first start since Dec. 26 tomorrow when the Reign host the Bakersfield Condors.

Berube’s last outing was a forgettable one – down to 13 skaters, he was the unlucky goalie as the Reign lost 5-0 to the Las Vegas Wranglers. Still short-handed, the Reign reached back the next four games and went 2-0-1, averaging 36 shots a game with goalie Chris Carrozzi in net.

That impressive feat will be the focus of tomorrow’s notebook in the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Berube has not faced the Condors since opening night, a 5-4 Reign loss.

A few more notes from practice:
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Junior Reign squad headed to Canada.

Passing this along from the team’s weekly newsletter:

The Bantam B Junior Reign Hockey team won the Silver Stick Regional Championship in San Jose on Sunday, November 27, 2011. As champions, the Jr. Reign will now represent the Pacific District in the Silver Stick International Finals in Pelham, Ontario, Canada from January 5-9, 2012.

In order for the team to be able to travel to Canada to compete in the finals, they need your help with donations for transportation, lodging costs, etc. for the team.

Any donations, no matter the size, would help this team represent Southern California. IVHA – Jr. Reign Hockey Club is a Non-Profit 501-(c)3 organization. Your donation would be tax deductible.

Please contact Jeff Wilhelm, President, at (951) 377-3823 or

Christmas caption contest.

In case you missed the invitation yesterday on Facebook or Twitter, this week’s Ontario Reign newsletter included at least one photo that deserves a funny caption. I thought the second photo was rife for satire, but some people have already submitted caption suggestions for the first.

**As a bonus, I’ve been told that the winning caption will be shown on the big video board at the next Reign game. Can’t make a promise on that one, but there’s your added incentive.





Irwin suspended four games, Couture one.

The Reign will be without two-thirds of their top line when they return to the ice next Monday in Las Vegas.

Left wing Geoff Irwin was suspended four games, and Derek Couture one, by the ECHL on Tuesday for their actions Sunday in Alaska.

Aces defenseman Brandon Gentile slew-footed Couture at 14:30 of the second period of Sunday’s game, moments after Francois Brisebois scored the Reign’s first goal of the game. That set off a massive brawl with Couture and Gentile in the middle. You can see how it started at the 2:27 mark of this video:

At the 3:08 mark, Couture appears to be the second man in on a fight between Gentile and Reign defenseman Chris Huxley. Couture was given a double game misconduct for his role in the altercation.

Irwin was suspended for an illegal hit to the head; his only penalty in the game was a second-period elbowing minor. “He went through the body clean and he obviously came up high on his follow-through on the hit,” Reign coach Jason Christie said. “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. It’s understandable. He came up a little too high. You don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy. ”

Kyle Kraemer, who fetched a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking a hard hit from Alaska’s Kane Lafranchise at the end of the second period, was fined an undisclosed amount along with Irwin and Couture.

Alaska 3, Reign 1.

The Reign kicked off their three-game weekend series in Alaska on Friday down two men and two goals.

The Aces walked away with a 3-1 win despite being outshot 34-24. Kevin Estrada scored the Reign’s only goal at 7:41 of the third period. It was his first of the season, his first since the 2009-10 season in Germany, and his first in the ECHL since April 10, 2008 as a member of the Victoria Salmon Kings.

Per the Anchorage Daily News account, Estrada “walked out of the right corner, made it to the net and jammed a shot on [Alaska goalie Gerald]
Coleman, who had the paddle of his stick down along the ice. Estrada
jammed his own rebound through Coleman to cut Alaska’s lead to 2-1.”

That was as close as the Reign would get. Three minutes and one second later, Wes Goldie scored his 12th goal of the season to make it 3-1. Steve Ward and Gary Nunn scored power-play goals in the second period for the Aces (19-4-1-1), who finished 2-for-5 on the power play.

The Reign (12-10-1-1) are stuck in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, third in the Pacific Division, and failed to gain ground on the second-place Stockton Thunder, who lost 6-2 to Idaho earlier in the night.

Chris Carrozzi stopped 21 of 24 shots. J-F Berube made his first appearance (albeit on the bench) since sustaining a neck injury in practice last month.

Forward Matt Tassone (back) did not accompany the Reign on the trip. Shayne Neigum skated at forward, giving the Reign nine forwards and five defensemen. The 14 skaters are two below the ECHL maximum.

Chris Cloud gets first AHL call-up.

The Reign lost their second forward in three days to the Manchester Monarchs on Wednesday.

Left wing Chris Cloud, who leads the team in major penalties, signed a pro tryout contract with the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, joining linemate J.D. Watt at the next level. Cloud has five goals, 10 points and 84 penalty minutes this season, appearing in all 22 games. He is tied for second in the ECHL in major penalties with 10.

The Monarchs recently lost center Cam Paddock to a four-game suspension, so Cloud and Watt could conceivably return to the Reign soon.

Still, it’s quite an opportunity for Cloud, who spent the last two seasons in the Central Hockey League and has never played in the AHL before.

The Reign could be without two-thirds of their toughest line Friday in Alaska. Count on Shayne Neigum seeing plenty of time at forward, and Kevin Estrada getting a long look in his debut game, with Bill Bagron centering the line.