Looking ahead to Bakersfield.

Facing an almost impossibly large deficit in the Western Conference standings, it goes without saying that every series is crucial for the Reign. Given their head-to-head history with Bakersfield this season (the Condors have won 7 of the 9 games), it doesn’t get much bigger than three games in three days at Rabobank Arena beginning today.

“We’re in a situation where we have to win a lot of games to give ourselves a chance,” coach Karl Taylor said, “and even if we win a lot of games we might not get a chance because of the hole we dug.”
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Important ECHL deadline today.

An important ECHL deadline passed at 2 p.m. today: Any player playing for a team based outside of North America at any time during the 2010-11 season, in order to be eligible to play the remainder of the ECHL season and/or playoffs, must have a signed contract and be placed on an ECHL roster.

Players who return from teams based outside of North America and subsequently play in the NHL/AHL prior to the overseas deadline may be added to an ECHL active roster at any time.

To my knowledge, the Reign didn’t try to sneak anyone in ahead of the deadline, but I’ll get confirmation on that tomorrow. Other ECHL teams might have tried to sign someone, which can create a ripple effect around league rosters, so it’s something to watch out for.

Check out my notebook in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for items on Kyle Kraemer, David Walker, the Reign’s propensity for getting outshot, and an explanation as to why Bakersfield Condors captain Andrew Ianeiro mysteriously left during the first intermission of Saturday’s game.

Reign 4, Bakersfield 3.

The Reign won at home, and it was really no secret why. Between the three teeth Brett O’Malley left on the ice, a long and courageous fight by David Walker late in the third period, and plenty of blocked shots along the way, the effort was apparent all over the ice.

“We need to have that effort,” coach Karl Taylor said. “That extra 5, 10 percent was there tonight. I thought Bako played well. It was an entertaining game. That’s what it’s all about. There was a lot of sacrifice on the ice by the guys tonight.”

Jordan Morrison’s second-chance goal waith 8:32 left in the third period ended up being the game-winner. The Reign outshot the Condors 39-32, killed all three Bakersfield penalties, and got a solid 29-save performance from Mike Zacharias.

Morrison, Chaz Johnson and Alex Bourret each had a goal and an assist, Shawn Collymore had a pair of assists and Kyle Kraemer scored his second goal in as many games.

A few more notes that didn’t make tomorrow’s story:
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Bakersfield 5, Reign 1.

The Bakersfield Condors continue to be a thorn in the Reign’s side this season.

A 5-1 loss at Rabobank Arena on Friday was the Reign’s seventh in eight head-to-head meetings with the Condors this season.

Kyle Kraemer scored the Reign’s only goal – an unassisted tally and his first since Dec. 28 – with 2:28 left in the first period to tie the game at 1.

But the Condors (23-20-1-1) scored four unanswered goals to dispatch the Reign (14-27-2-2), who had gained points in back-to-back games. Five different players scored for Bakersfield.

Goaltender Beau Erickson stopped 36 of 41 shots as the Reign were outshot 41-24. The Reign fell further behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings, who beat the Alaska Aces 6-2 on Friday, for the final playoff position in the ECHL’s Western Conference.

The Reign host the Condors at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

Another ECHL line brawl – this one’s bigger.

The ECHL wasted no time handing out discipline from last night’s benches-clearing brawl in Anchorage between the Condors and the Alaska Aces. (There wasn’t much time to wait – the two teams play again tonight).

First, the video:

Now, the fallout – some of which will affect the Condors’ lineup against the Reign next month:

• Bakersfield enforcer Erick Lizon was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended nine games – seven games for his role in the aforementioned altercation, another two games for “his actions in the first period.” (Lizon wasn’t penalized in the first period, and there’s no video evidence of any infraction, so maybe someone who saw the game can chime in.) Among the nine games Lizon will miss are games Feb. 4, 5 and 18 against the Reign.

• Condors defenseman Joe Rullier was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended three games, including the Feb. 4 game against the Reign.

• Seven other players and both coaches have all been fined and suspended at least one game. The benches should be particularly short tonight: Neither Marty Raymond nor Brent Thompson will be behind the benches. Bakersfield must play without Lizon, Rullier, Slava Trukhno, Joey Ryan and Guillaume Lefebvre. Alaska must play without Scott Burt and Chris Langkow.

• The hometown Aces received an undisclosed fine from the ECHL and, capping a busy week in Bakersfield, the Condors organization was fined by the league, too.

Here’s the game recap in the Anchorage Daily News, and here’s the momentous box score. Note the combined 249 penalty minutes.

Reign 1, Bakersfield 0.

The Reign waited 37 games to record their first shutout of the season, and goalie Beau Erickson – a witness to the frustration since Week 2 – literally jumped off the ice to celebrate the occasion.

“It was a long time coming,” he said. “I didn’t make a whole lot of difficult saves … maybe two or three tough saves tonight. I got a little help. They hit the post a couple times tonight.”

By itself, it was a fairly routine 27-save shutout for Erickson, backed by a second-period wraparound goal by Michael Pelech.

But in contrast to the rest of the season, it looked like a turning point for a defense that had only recently begun to jell. The outlet passes were closer to the tape of teammates’ sticks. Shooting lanes and passing lanes were clogged. There was more function than dysfunction.

Bakersfield (20-17-1-0) clogged its share of shooting and passing lanes too, at times frustrating the Reign despite a respectable 25-shot offensive effort. Pelech’s second-period wraparound on Brian Stewart was the game’s only goal.

It was somewhat typical of a win from Year 1 in these parts – outshot, and at times outchanced, but the Reign had slightly better goaltending and defense.

Plenty more from Erickson, Pelech and coach Karl Taylor in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes:
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Loktionov to Reign, Beaverson in, Pelech under pressure.

The Kings are expected to assign Manchester Monarchs forward Andrei Loktionov to the Reign for the purpose of bringing him to Southern California in advance of their game Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Neither the Kings nor the Reign have made an official announcement yet, and it’s doubtful that Loktionov will have time to suit up for the Reign’s game tonight against the Bakersfield Condors.

Even if he does play tonight, Loktionov won’t be in Ontario long. If Kings forward Wayne Simmonds, who injured his knee Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, is healthy enough to play Thursday, Loktionov is expected to be sent back to Manchester. If Simmonds can’t play, then Loktionov will be added to the Kings’ roster. Simmonds participated in a full practice Wednesday and is “a possibility,” according to Kings coach Terry Murray.

Here’s what we know: Beau Erickson will be the starter in goal tonight against Bakersfield, defenseman Luke Beaverson will return to the Reign’s lineup for the first time since Dec. 17, and defenseman Doug Krantz will be scratched from the lineup.
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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.

Bakersfield 4, Reign 3.

Wednesday’s crowd was the smallest of the season for a home game – 4,670 – but fans weren’t booing. Until the third period, they had little reason to.

The Reign lost in regulation for the first time when leading after one period, and for the first time when leading after two, by surrendering three unanswered goals to the Condors in the third period.

The Condors have won 9 of 10 and showed why. They continued to pepper Beau Erickson (28 saves) even after falling behind 3-1 early in the third period when Brett O’Malley scored a rare goal during a 5-on-3 penalty kill.

The Reign killed off the rest of Bakersfield’s two-man advantage but couldn’t garner any momentum from it. The Condors continued to generate scoring chances with ease and Erickson could do little about goals by Brendan Milnamow (which was deflected en route), Evan Stoflet (on an unchallenged, short-handed breakaway) and Slava Trukhno (another deflection).

Lane Caffaro and Chaz Johnson had the other goals for the Reign, who have lost four in a row and 13 of 15 on home ice.

Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for comments from Erickson, Caffaro and coach Karl Taylor.

Here are a few notes that won’t make the print editions:

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Alaska 5, Reign 3.

The Reign return home having found their stroke on offense.

Defense was another matter as the Reign lost their third game on a four-game road trip, 5-3 in Alaska, in a game that saw the Aces lead in shots, 47-19. Alaska benefited from eight power plays (converting two) to four for the Reign.

Kellen Briggs was chased after allowing four goals on 23 shots, at which point the Reign trailed 4-1 midway through the second period. Beau Erickson stopped all 23 shots he faced in relief but also picked up a 10-minute misconduct at 5:43 of the third period.

The line of Jordan Morrison (two goals, assist) Alex Bourret (one assist) and Chaz Johnson (one goal) did all of the damage on offense for the Reign, who host the red-hot Bakersfield Condors Wednesday at The Bank. Bakersfield has won 8 of 9.