Bakersfield 5, Reign 1.

The Reign found a new way to lose Saturday – start strong, keep the game close for two periods, then let the game get out of reach in the third.

This new route to a familiar result didn’t sit well with the denizens at The Bank, many of whom headed straight for the exit after Stephane Goulet’s goal made it 5-1 at 7:38 of the third period. The Reign have lost five straight, 12 of 13 at home, and it says here that their upcoming eight-day layoff could not have come at a better time.

Whether it gives Chad Starling, Eric Doyle, or Jon Francisco enough time to get healthy; Karl Taylor enough time to bring in a quality veteran; or this team enough time to simply hone its chemistry – a rare sight in recent weeks – the Reign need some time between games.
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Bakersfield 4, Reign 1.

The line of ex-NHLer Kyle Calder, and ex-AHLers Bobby Robins and Joel Broda, combined for two goals and five assists on a night that saw the start time pushed back nearly half an hour because the Condors’ team bus was late to The Bank.

Kyle Kraemer scored the Reign’s only goal at 5:14 of the second period.

Newcomer Alan Dorich saw regular ice time early on a pairing with Luke Beaverson and shot a puck off the end boards that led directly to Kraemer’s goal. Not a bad debut.

But the Reign as a team didn’t get shots to the net with consistency until the third period, when they outshot the Condors 13-10. Prior to that they had only eight shots on net – including two in the second period – to Bakersfield’s 17.

Kellen Briggs stopped 23 shots but let in a pair of uncharacteristically easy goals, while former NHL goalie Josh Tordjman stopped 20 on the other end for Bakersfield.

The eight-place Reign fell six points behind the seventh-place Condors in the Western Conference standings. Bakersfield has handed the Reign two straight losses by the same score; the teams play again tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

The Reign went 0-for-5 on the power play, including 0-for-3 in the third period, to extend their stretch of futility with the man advantage to 2-for-40 in their last seven games.

“We’re working hard, we just have to get the puck in the net,” Kraemer said. “I’m confident, and so are the guys in the locker room, that we can get out of this funk.”

More from Kraemer and coach Karl Taylor in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Reign, Condors delayed. Update.

Tonight’s game between the Bakersfield Condors and Ontario Reign won’t begin at 7 p.m. as planned.

The Condors’ team bus has been delayed – likely due to inclement weather heading south from Bakersfield through the Tejon Pass, though that hasn’t been confirmed. The team will have one hour from the time it arrives at Citizens Business Bank Arena to warm up before the puck drops.

As of 6:20 p.m., the Condors haven’t arrived; the initial estimate was that the team would arrive close to 6:30 and the game would begin close to 7:30.

6:40 p.m. update: The team bus arrived about 10 minutes ago, and 7:30 is still the estimated start time. A source close to the bus tells us the Condors left Bakersfield approximately 2 p.m. and encountered thick traffic the entire route south. Although there was a steady rain, it wasn’t snowing through the Grapevine.

Reign add defenseman Dorich.

Alan Dorich became the third defenseman acquired at midseason by the Reign on Thursday.

The rookie comes to Ontario from the Gwinnett Gladiators – likely in exchange for “future considerations,” though that’s not confirmed – and the Reign will become his fourth ECHL team in a season that is barely two months old.

The 24-year-old has already played two games for the Wheeling Nailers, three for the Kalamazoo Wings and one for the Gladiators, collecting one assist in Wheeling along the way. The Reign will be his fifth team overall this season; Dorich was cut in training camp by the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.

Dorich had no goals, 17 assists and 200 penalty minutes from 2006-10 at Northern Michigan University, suggesting he is a defense-minded blueliner. Prior to college, Dorich played three seasons for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers, where he was teammates with current Kings Davis Drewiske and Trevor Lewis, and New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo. The Buccaneers won the Clark Cup in 2006.

No word yet on when Dorich will arrive, or if he will be able to play tomorrow against the Bakersfield Condors. Eric Doyle (upper body) is on injured reserve and didn’t take part in practice. Neither did defenseman Chad Starling (lower body), who worked out off the ice and is eligible to be activated off IR tomorrow. Reign coach Karl Taylor said Starling is questionable.

Before acquiring Dorich, Taylor said he would be comfortable playing with five defenseman if needed, which was the case in Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Bakersfield.

“We played a pretty good game Saturday,” Taylor said. “Obviously we lost and we’re disappointed with the result. We’ve got to climb out of our hole. We played a real competitive game. We had four or five fights in the game. We stood up for ourselves, we had some good chances.

“That’s been the focus this week. We’ve done a lot of power-play work, a lot of scoring drills. We need to create more offense and score more. That’s what we’re trying to fix. We feel if we score more, we can probably win four or five more games than we have.”

Bakersfield 4, Reign 1.

A chance to match the Bakersfield Condors in the Western Conference standings turned into the Reign’s third straight loss Saturday.

After Bakersfield’s Vyacheslav Trukhno opened the scoring at 2:27 of the first period, Aaron Lewadniuk answered with a power-play goal – his seventh goal of the season and his fourth in six December games - 40 seconds later. Kyle Kraemer and Jordan Morrison picked up the assists.

The first period also featured three fights, starting with James McEwan and Bakersfield’s Erick Lizon dropping gloves only 19 seconds after the opening faceoff. Chaz Johnson, Justin Taylor and Michael Pelech also were hit with fighting majors before the game was over. In all, the teams combined for 90 minutes worth of penalties.

But the Reign would get no closer on the scoreboard, as they were outshot 41-23. Erik Burgdoerfer’s goal gave the Condors a 2-1 lead at 15:39 of the first period, and Stephane Goulet and Trukhno scored 18 seconds apart in the second period to provide the final score.

Kellen Briggs made 37 saves in the loss, his ECHL-leading 12th loss of the season. The Reign (8-14-0-1) could have matched the Condors in the standings with a win, but instead remained in last place in the Western Conference, four points behind the Condors (10-13-1-0).

The Reign played with only five defensemen because Jordan Hill was loaned to the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs prior to the game.

A brief note on the defense.

Among the topics that space didn’t allow for in yesterday’s game story was that the Reign have allowed 12 goals in their last two games, more than in their previous five games combined.

While the team was deservedly pleased with their number of scoring chances in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Bakersfield Condors, “four goals should be enough to win you a hockey game,” defenseman David Walker said. “You can’t give up that many goals.”

It’s probably no coincidence that shutdown defenseman Chad Starling and center Jon Francisco, among the team’s best defensive forwards, missed both Sunday and Wednesday’s games with lower-body injuries.

Arguably more troubling than allowing five goals was where all five goals came from – a conservative estimate would be within 20 feet of the net. The last four were scored directly off rebounds. The first came when Adam Naglich had a step on the defense and put a late move on goaltender Kellen Briggs at the net front.

Starling in particular has made a living clearing pucks and people out from in front of his goalies since 2001.

Said Walker, “Anytime you miss a guy who’s played 10 years in professional hockey, it’s his experience. Our team’s not based on one or two guys. We miss Jon Francisco, we miss Chad Starling. When you have older guys in the lineup you have a little bit more experience in the room. I don’t think that’s an issue right now, but all of us have to be better.”

National Conference finals matchup set.

The Stockton Thunder will meet the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL National Conference Finals, having beaten the Bakersfield Condors 7-4 in Game 5 of their quarterfinal series Saturday.

Stockton was able to clinch its first trip to the conference finals on home ice with goals from seven different players and 31 saves from Andrew Perugini.

The Pacific Division-champion Condors didn’t make it past the second round despite a roster that included two players who had appeared in the NHL this season (Kyle Calder and MacGregor Sharp), and another who dressed for the parent-club Anaheim Ducks (Timo Pielmeier, who briefly served as a backup goalie). Pielmeier allowed six goals on 33 shots in the loss.

ECHL playoff update.

The Idaho Steelheads eliminated the Utah Grizzlies with a 4-1 win on the road Friday, sweeping the series four games to none to move on to the National Conference finals.

They will face either the Bakersfield Condors or the Stockton Thunder, who pushed their Central Valley rivals to the brink with a 6-2 win Friday night in Stockton. The Thunder lead the best-of-seven series three games to one, with Game 5 set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

AHL, ECHL playoff updates.

From the Calder Cup playoffs (American Hockey League):

Bud Holloway scored the second of three goals for the Manchester Monarchs in a 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night. Holloway scored the game-winner a night earlier, and the Monarchs lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Former Reign forward Dwight King did not factor into the scoring in either game, and former Reign goalie Jeff Zatkoff has served as the backup in both.

Jon Rheault was in the starting lineup, but was kept off the scoresheet in a 4-1 loss by the Abbotsford Heat to the Rochester Americans on Saturday. Their series is tied at 1 game apiece.

Dusty Collins and the Manitoba Moose absorbed an 8-2 thumping at the hands of the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday. Collins did not figure into the scoring and the Moose head home to Winnipeg trailing 2-0 in the series.

From the Kelly Cup playoffs (ECHL):

Brian Kilburg and the Utah Grizzlies are down two games to none against the Idaho Steelheads after a 4-3 loss in Boise on Saturday. The former Reign defenseman got the starting nod but didn’t score.

Oren Eizenmann’s second goal of the game at 9:01 of overtime lifted the Stockton Thunder to a 4-3 win over the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday. The Thunder are leading 2-0 with the series heading back to Stockton on Tuesday. Bakersfield’s two ex-NHL forwards, MacGregor Sharp and Kyle Calder, have a combined zero goals and zero assists in the two games.

Around the ECHL playoff rosters.

A couple notes from around the ECHL playoff rosters, which teams submitted to the league Monday:

• The Ducks just unloaded several stud players on the Bakersfield Condors for the playoffs: veteran NHL forward Kyle Calder, goaltender Jean-Philippe Levasseur, forward MacGregor Sharp and defenseman Stu Bickel. Calder, Sharp and Levasseur have spent time in the NHL, AHL and ECHL this season.

• If you’re looking for someone to root for, two former Reign players dot the league’s roster: Utah Grizzlies defenseman Brian Kilburg and Toledo Walleye forward Sal Peralta.