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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Geoff Irwin, acquired for Aaron Lewadniuk, signs.

As expected, Geoff Irwin has signed with the Reign. The 26-year-old forward was acquired in an August trade that sent Aaron Lewadniuk to the Idaho Steelheads.

Karl Taylor, who engineered the trade, described it as a stroke of good fortune for the Reign.

“Irwin is an outstanding individual who we feel adds a lot to our team,” Taylor said at the time. “We just felt a change in scenery for both guys was a good situation. That’s the way it kind of came together.

Irwin, Taylor said, is “a quick kid, got a lot of compete in his game – very consistent, at least from what I can tell. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. He’s a guy who Idaho didn’t necessarily want to trade, but other factors came into play and we were able to get him.”

New head coach Jason Christie enters the job with 13 players known to be under contract:

Forwards (5): Derek Couture, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch, Geoff Irwin.

Defensemen (6): Chad Starling, Pat Bowen, Jason Fredricks, Adrian Van de Mosselaer, Dylan Yeo, Jordan Hill.

Goalies (2): Jase Weslosky, Beau Erickson.

Reign acquire Irwin for Lewadniuk.

The Reign announced a rare off-season trade Tuesday, sending forward Aaron Lewadniuk to the Idaho Steelheads for forward Geoff Irwin. The trade was completed before Karl Taylor accepted the assistant coaching position with the Chicago Wolves.

“We just felt a change in scenery for both guys was a good situation,” Taylor said. “That’s the way it kind of came together.”

Lewadniuk had received a qualifying offer from the Reign but hadn’t signed yet. Neither had Irwin.

“Usually when that (type of trade) occurs, there’s announcements that come shortly after,” Taylor said.

As a rookie in 2010-11, Irwin had 13 goals and 25 points in 57 games for the Steelheads. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Irwin is almost the same size as Lewadniuk (5-11, 175) but offers more quickness, Taylor said. Lewadniuk is a right-handed shot; Irwin shoots left.

Lewadniuk was a popular player, whose biggest knock as a rookie was his inconsistency. The Reign’s lone All-Star in January, Lewadniuk finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 69 games.

The 22-year-old said after the season that he had “no reasons” why he wouldn’t want to come back, but might have had a change of heart this summer.

The Steelheads don’t visit Ontario until Feb. 18.

Reign qualify eight.

Eight players received qualifying offers from the Reign on Friday: Aaron Lewadniuk, Jordan Morrison, Luke Beaverson, Jordan Hill, Lane Caffaro, Brett O’Malley, Pat Bowen and C.J. Stretch.

Some things to remember:

• The Reign have probably already re-signed some other players, so these eight players are not the starting point for next year’s roster. All we know is that none of them have signed a contract yet.

• The qualifying offer remains open until August 1, or until it is accepted by the player, during which time he cannot be traded.

• History tells us that most guys will either decline their offers, or somehow wind up playing elsewhere. For example, in 2009 the Reign qualified eight players and only three (Mike Howe, Andrew Martens, Dan Knapp) wound up playing in Ontario the following season. Darren McMillan, Jason Techjma, Dale Reinhardt, Dusty Collins and Kellen Briggs all moved on. In 2010, two qualified players came back (Mike Zacharias and James McEwan), and the other six (Greg Hogeboom, Jon Rheault, Geoff Walker, Curtis Darling Peter Lenes and Chris Curran) moved on.

• Players that were not signed by today or extended a qualifying offer become unrestricted free agents.

• The ECHL allows up to eight players to be qualified.

Reign announce season-ending roster.

The Reign have announced their season-ending roster, a list of 20 players of whom eight can be tendered qualifying offers no later than July 1:

Jordan Hill, Jase Weslosky, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, Jason Fredricks, C.J. Stretch, Aaron Lewadniuk, Beau Erickson, Pat Bowen, Luke Beaverson, James McEwan, Brett O’Malley, Lane Caffaro, Craig Gaudet, Alex Bourret, Doug Krantz, Kellen Briggs, Chaz Johnson, David Walker and Matt Delahey.

Of the players who finished 2010-11 with the Reign, six are missing from the list:

• Forward Michael Pelech, who was assigned to the Reign by the Manchester Monarchs.

• Five veterans (as defined by the ECHL): Shawn Collymore, Shawn Germain, Jon Francisco, Chad Starling and Justin Taylor. Reign coach Karl Taylor has stated that he doesn’t send qualifying offers to veterans out of principle, since they can decline the offer and become a free agent without any possible compensation to the Reign.

Walker is a veteran. But the captain said that he expects to play in Europe next season [more on this in a future blog], so a qualifying offer sent to him would probably come with little consequence.

Also, note that teams are not required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract prior to July 1.

All the ECHL season-ending rosters can be found here.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Aaron Lewadniuk?

The rundown on forward Aaron Lewadniuk:

2010-11 stats [career]: 17 goals, 31 points, minus-15 rating, 62 penalty minutes in 69 games.

Quote: “I have no reasons why I wouldn’t want to come back. … I can’t complain about anything, especially my individual play, my stats and just the leadership in my first year pro, I couldn’t ask for much more.”

Pros: Lewadniuk was the team’s go-to scorer in stretches as a rookie, showcasing his versatile potential as a playmaker, goal-scorer and fighter. He was the team’s lone all-star in January and a willing convert from center to left wing.

Cons: Lewadniuk would disappear from the scoresheet for stretches and was often only as good as the players around him. Whether that was just part of the learning process or an indictment on his potential as a pro remains to be seen.

Aaron Lewadniuk post-season quotes.

Aaron Lewadniuk endured the typical share of rookie highs and lows. Offensively, he provided as many highlights as anyone over the course of the season. Defensively, he wasn’t quite as consistent.

Aside from the occasional rookie mistake, Lewadniuk was always one of the more interesting players to watch – capable of scoring a goal, setting up someone else, or getting into a fight. He represented the team at the All-Star Game in January and finished with 17 goals (tied for third on the team) and 31 points in 69 games.

Here’s what he had to say on his final day at the rink:
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Reign 7, Bakersfield 5.

There were a number of strange aspects to Wednesday’s game, not the least of which was a season-high seven goals against a team that had beaten the Reign in 11 of 14 meetings coming into the night.

Karl Taylor insisted that it had nothing to do with the pressure of making playoffs being off.

“Pressure doesn’t affect the players. We’re freakin’ 11-21 at home, let’s figure it out,” he said. “We didn’t score seven goals because we’re already eliminated. That has nothing to do with it. We got some good bounces tonight and we shot a lot of pucks. Probably a couple their goalie would like to have back.”

Shawn Germain, who scored a short-handed goal to set a new career high for goals in a single season (4), had a different take. Check that out in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Brett O’Malley had two goals, and Alex Bourret (on a penalty shot), Justin Taylor, Jordan Morrison and Aaron Lewadniuk had one each.

Beau Erickson stopped 29 of 34 shots in the win. Shane Connolly served as the backup.

Reign win, but are eliminated from the playoffs.

There will be hockey in Ontario again this year. Playoff hockey, however, will have to wait.

The Victoria Salmon Kings’ come-from-behind, 7-6 shootout win over the Stockton Thunder eliminated the Reign from the playoffs Friday, a couple hours after the Reign beat Idaho 3-2.

That the Reign were eliminated should come as little surprise. They had no margin for error beginning this week, needing to win their final six games and needing Victoria to lose their final seven.

The Salmon Kings didn’t cooperate. For the first time all season, they came back to win a game they trailed after two periods (5-3), pulling even with Stockton at 6-6 with 5:42 left in the third period.

If they win each of their last four games, the Reign can still match Victoria at 64 points in the standings should the Salmon Kings lose their final five games. But they cannot win more games than Victoria this season; the Reign would also lose the second tiebreaker having lost five of six head-to-head meetings.

All of which makes the game details somewhat moot. Beau Erickson won his second straight start, stopping 30 of 32 shots, and Jordan Morrison’s goal at 9:27 proved to be the game-winner.

Kyle Kraemer and Aaron Lewadniuk scored power-play goals and Alex Bourret had a pair of assists for the Reign. Lewadniuk re-entered the lineup after being held out Wednesday due to a back injury and switched places with Chaz Johnson, who was recalled to the AHL Thursday.

The Reign have another game in Idaho on Saturday night, before hosting three games next week to close the season.

Brief notes from practice.

You would never know by watching the Reign practice that their season has been reduced to a prayer. The effort and the tempo were there – only a few players were missing.

Shawn Germain (maintenance), Jase Weslosky (lower body) and Aaron Lewadniuk (back) sat this one out. Weslosky was scheduled to be evaluated later today to determine his status for the upcoming road trip to Boise. Lewadniuk is day-to-day and seems more likely to go on the trip. More from him in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

For my money, the most impressive sight in practice was that of Chad Starling. The veteran defenseman still hasn’t been cleared for contact or game play, as was his original hope, but he hasn’t given up on this season either. Unlike veteran teammates David Walker and Jon Francisco, Starling has given no indication that this season will be his last. But for a 30-year-old who hasn’t played a game since November, and underwent two surgeries in January, it would certainly be an accomplishment if he were to appear in a game before the season ends.

There hasn’t been any activity on the transactions wire, though former Reign center Dusty Collins saw his time in an Oklahoma City Barons jersey end after one game. He was released from his PTO today and is presumably on his way back to Florida.