Bakersfield 5, Reign 2.

In Victoria, two is a magic number.

I’m not sure what the opposite of “magic” is, but the same number is facing the Reign and it can’t feel nearly as good. Their loss in Bakersfield, combined with the Salmon Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Utah Grizzlies, puts the magic number — the combined number of Reign losses and Salmon Kings wins needed to eliminate the Reign from the playoffs — at two.

In plain English, the Reign could be eliminated as soon as Wednesday. That’s when both teams play next; Victoria is at Bakersfield and the Reign are at Idaho. Even if it doesn’t happen Wednesday, there’s a sinking sense of inevitability. The Reign have six games left in the regular season, the Salmon Kings have seven, and if the Reign are going to make the playoffs they will need to win at least five and see the Salmon Kings lose at least that many.

The game details seem somewhat muted by the circumstances, but here they are: Justin Taylor scored 43 seconds into the game and got into a fight with Bobby Robins 35 seconds later. Vyatcheslav Trukhno scored the first of two power-play goals by the Condors at 6:32 to tie the game at 1, and Adam Naglich scored short-handed at 3:18 of the second to make it 2-1 Condors.

Alex Bourret’s 10th goal of the season pulled the Reign even with 57 seconds left in the second period, but Joel Broda’s first goal of the game 11 seconds later restored the Condors’ one-goal lead. The Reign would never get the goal back — Broda scored again at 10:05 of the third and Trukhno provided the final score with an empty-net goal at 18:03.

Beau Erickson (39 saves) wound up the loser in his first start since March 15, a span of 15 days. The Reign were outshot 44-24 according to the final scoresheet and fell to 3-9-0-2 against the Condors for the season.

Aaron Lewadniuk did not play for the Reign, who went 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed two power-play goals by the Condors.

Reign 4, Las Vegas 2.

Needing a win to keep their diminishing playoff hopes alive, the Reign responded with their second win this week against the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Jase Weslosky turned in another strong performance, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and getting goals from Aaron Lewdniuk, Kyle Kraemer, Shawn Germain and Justin Taylor – the latter coming into an empty net with 44 seconds remaining.

The Reign are now seven points behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings, who won on Wednesday and have played one fewer game (64 to 63). That leaves the Reign with eight games to make up seven or more points in the standings.

At least now they have some semblance of momentum on their side. The response to a 1-0, first-period deficit was rather impressive; the Reign scored three unanswered goals to start the second period and, ultimately, put the game away. Weslosky turned aside all nine shots he faced in the third to preserve the win.

Brett O’Malley had two assists, while Lewadniuk, Taylor and Jordan Morrison had one helper each.

Not that it will be needed for any playoff tiebreakers, but the win allowed the Reign to win the head-to-head season series with the Wranglers, five games to four. Las Vegas is the only Western Conference team against whom the Reign have a winning record.

Bakersfield 5, Reign 4, SO.

Stephane Goulet’s goal in the first shootout round was the difference in a back-and-forth game at Rabobank Arena.

The Reign fell 61 seconds short of a much-needed regulation win. Trailing 4-3 late in the game, Condors coach Marty Raymond called timeout and pulled starting goalie Brian Stewart for an extra attacker. Six seconds later, Joel Broda deposited a wrist shot over the glove of Beau Erickson to tie the game at 4.

Erickson could hardly be faulted for the loss. Making his second straight start, Erickson faced 53 shots over the first 65 minutes, then five more in the shootout, recording a season-high 49 saves. Shawn Collymore, Chaz Johnson, Aaron Lewadniuk and Brett O’Malley scored for the Reign (18-29-2-3, 41 points), who fell 10 points behind the victorious Victoria Salmon Kings in the race for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

By picking up the extra point, Bakersfield (25-23-2-1, 53 points) moved 12 points ahead of the Reign. Broda, Michael Gergen and Andrew Ianeiro scored the other goals for the Condors.

A few more notes:

Continue reading

Elmira 3, Reign 1.

All good things – like winning streaks and interconference series – must come to an end.

Clearly tired at the end of their third game in three nights, and fourth in five days, the Reign sputtered to a 3-1 loss in their series finale against Elmira. The Reign started strong but managed just four shots in the third period and couldn’t convert on the power play after the first period.

The Jackals halted their four-game losing streak on the strength of two goals by Jason Bailey and another by Patrick Coulombe, who potted the game-winner during a 4-on-3 power play with 1:43 left in the third period. Bailey’s goal into an empty net with 3.2 seconds left completed the scoring.

Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s only goal by deflecting a point shot by David Walker past TImo Pielmeier at 8:58 of the first period.

Mike Zacharias stopped 32 in one of those puzzling games for a goalie. Two fairly straightforward shots, by Bailey in the first period and Coulombe in the third, got past him. The rest of the game, facing one breakaway after another, he was perfect – strong positionally and when he needed to move laterally in the crease.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.
Continue reading

Reign 4, Utah 3, OT.

The Reign managed to take three of a possible six points from the Grizzlies, the first-place team in the other (Mountain) Division, on the strength of a Pat Bowen point shot that got through at 2:03 of overtime.

The Mountain trip isn’t over yet – its fourth and final game awaits tomorrow night against the Idaho Steelheads – but it’s off to a decent 1-1-1 start. The win allowed the Reign (14-26-1-2) to keep pace with the Victoria Salmon Kings (18-24-1-2) and remain eight points out of the seventh and final Western Conference playoff position with two games in hand.

And in the midst of an impossibly lousy season at home, it’s no small feat that the Reign are now 10-11-1-1 on the road. They can pull to .500 away from CBBA (ignoring the OT/SO columns) with a win in Boise.

Continue reading

No practice updates today – it’s the rules. Updates.

The Reign, and the rest of the ECHL, were off the ice today. It’s written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association that teams don’t practice during the All-Star Break. With no practice comes no updates, but here are a couple tidbits to pass along:

• Aaron Lewadniuk told me after last night’s game that he is leaving for Bakersfield today. Karl Taylor told me about a month ago that, because Ontario is relatively close to Bakersfield, it was possible that the ECHL would turn to the Reign for any injury replacements simply because it’s easier to get players to the game on short notice. The game is two days away and Lewadniuk, to my knowledge, is still the only Reign player heading north.

• Dusty Collins didn’t play for the Manitoba Moose yesterday, the first time he’s been scratched since being recalled to the AHL a week ago. His name hasn’t popped up on the transactions wire yet, but the player whose roster spot he took – Sergei Shirokov – was just returned to Manitoba by the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. But … the Canucks also recalled a defenseman from Manitoba, Lee Sweatt. No clear signals on this front.

• I spoke to Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall today about the Reign and the Manchester Monarchs. No Earth-shattering news to relay, but Hextall did say that he considered assigning a top-six-type forward (he didn’t give a name) from Manchester to Ontario at one point earlier this season when that player was struggling. That player turned his season around, however, and stayed in Manchester.

3:30 p.m. update: The Monarchs released defenseman Jordan Hill, who had been on loan from the Reign since December. Manchester doesn’t play a game until Wednesday, while the Reign don’t play until Friday in Utah. For now, pencil Hill in for the road trip – but a lot can happen in four days. Hill had one assist, 19 penalty minutes, and a minus-1 rating in 14 games with the Reign. He had one assist and 15 penalty minutes in 10 games for Manchester.

4 p.m. update: Hill is indeed flying in to Ontario today.

Stockton 7, Reign 2.

Coming off their first shutout of the season, the Reign surrendered seven goals – one off their season high – and their modest four-game point streak came to an end in a flurry of fisticuffs Friday at Stockton Arena.

There were plenty of goals, but also seven fights – two by Doug Krantz (against Craig Valette and Jordan Foreman), and one each for David Walker, Aaron Lewadniuk, Michael Pelech, Luke Beaverson and Chaz Johnson. Garet Hunt and Jordan Fulton were involved in two fights each for Stockton.

Trailing 3-2 on goals by Shawn Collymore and Jordan Morrison heading into the final period, the Reign surrendered two goals in the first two minutes. Stockton scored twice more, at 12:53 and 16:34, and four fights broke out after that.

The Reign (13-23-0-2) were outshot 14-5 in the final period, which didn’t make life easy on Beau Erickson. The goalie was in net for all seven Thunder goals and stopped 24 shots. Mike Zacharias served as the backup in his return to the Reign.

The Thunder (19-11-2-4) have won six straight and are averaging 4.8 goals per game during the streak. The teams meet again tomorrow at Stockton Arena before concluding the 3-in-3 in Ontario on Sunday.

Bakersfield 5, Reign 4, SO.

The Reign scored four straight goals to erase a 3-0 first-period deficit, then saw the Condors force overtime and eventually win in a shootout in a rare Saturday afternoon game at Rabobank Arena.

Shawn Germain scored the go-ahead goal with 2:47 left in the third period to give the Reign a 4-3 lead. But Peter Zingoni tied the game with 46 seconds left and the Condors skating 6-on-4 with goaltender Peter Hirsch on the bench.

Bakersfield briefly thought it had the game-winning goal one minute into overtime when Adam Naglich fired a shot past Beau Erickson (36 saves), but the goal was waved off on grounds that Condors forward Pascal Morency had interfered with Erickson in the crease.

The Condors waited until the shootout to pick up the extra point, scoring on three of their first four attempts against Erickson and clinching the win when Alex Bourret’s slapshot was saved by Hirsch on the other end.

David Walker, Aaron Lewadniuk and Michael Pelech scored second-period goals to tie the game at 3. Seven different players collected assists, and Erickson made 36 saves.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Utah 5, Reign 3.

The Reign started off with admirable energy, slowed down a bit, rediscovered their early-game tempo in the third period but ultimately found themselves in a familiar place.

They were outshot (29-19), outscored on the power play (3 to 2), outscored short-handed (1 to 0, despite some halfway decent chances) and most importantly, outscored 5-3 on the final scoreboard. It was their fifth straight loss and 14th in 16 home games this season.

The scoresheet also revealed and obscured some positives. The Reign weren’t afraid to fight, from Chaz Johnson and James McEwan on down to Aaron Lewadniuk and little Alex Bourret. All landed enough punches – Johnson landed one cleanly on Matt Sorteberg with his sweater pulled over his head, no less – to earn either a win or a draw.

The power play did a better job generating scoring chances, and its 50 percent conversion rate is usually enough on most nights. The Reign’s 14 total shots – while matching a season low – didn’t take into account several shots that just missed the net. C.J. Stretch clanged one off the goal frame in his first game in a month.

For all their plusses, the Reign still couldn’t kill a penalty against Utah. That seemed to be the main problem, and I discussed it in depth with a couple of the guys – more in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Lastly, it looks inevitable that Jeff Corey is going back to Europe. I don’t know much other than that Corey has an offer and there’s quite a bit of money behind it; the Reign don’t want to lose two of their key players (Corey and Kellen Briggs) in a week and are trying to retain Corey; and because there’s no contract in place at the moment, Corey is still in the area.

The Reign can try to get compensation from an overseas club if they lose Corey (I’m told that they did receive some compensation for Briggs), but they’d rather keep a player who is their leading scorer and among their best penalty killers. There’s also the inevitable perception that players are “jumping ship” with the team entrenched in last place, but I’ve been told that’s not the case. It’s more about the money, and ECHL players don’t make much.

Corey played for Freiburg of the second-tier German Bundesliga last season and spent all of 2007-08 in Denmark. He went down with a lower-body injury Dec. 28 in Victoria and hasn’t played in the last five games, but still leads the team in goals (11), points (24), power-play assists (9), game-winning goals (2) and shots (90).

Alaska 5, Reign 3.

The Reign returned to the site of arguably their greatest success this season – a three-game sweep at Sullivan Arena in November – but fell short of their fourth straight win in Alaska.

Aaron Lewadniuk’s second goal of the game, at 14:08 of the third period, forged a 3-3 tie that didn’t last long. Forty-four seconds later former NHL center Brian Swanson restored Alaska’s lead. Scott Howes’ empty-net goal with 47 seconds left in the game sealed the Reign’s second straight loss.

Lewadniuk scored 11:57 into the first period to provide a 1-0 lead and Dusty Collins’ power-play goal made it 2-1 at 9:18 of the second. That was the last time the Reign would lead.

Linemates Swanson (goal, assist) and Howes (two goals, assist) both finished plus-3 for Alaska. Kyle Kraemer had two assists and Shawn Germain had another.

Kellen Briggs stopped 31 of 35 shots for the Reign, who face the Aces at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.