Reign 3, Idaho 1.

If you just tuned in to Reign hockey — and judging by the announced crowd of 9,592, that’s quite a few of you — you’re probably wondering why this team has no chance of making the playoffs.

There are many reasons, most of which have been absent from the team’s play the last two weeks. The Reign will take their best five-game stretch of the season (four wins in their last five games) into today’s season finale after a punchless win over Idaho.

Beau Erickson made 31 saves, getting some help from his goal frame and some inaccurate Idaho shots, as well as goals by Michael Pelech, Jordan Morrison and Brett O’Malley.

Both teams were punchless, literally. No penalties were called until David Walker was whistled for hooking with 1:45 to play. It would have been only the fourth penalty-free game in ECHL history, the last coming in a March 30, 2003 game between the Augusta Lynx and Pee Dee Pride.

For the first time all season, all three forward lines are doing their jobs; all three defensive pairs seem to be communicating well and moving the puck up the ice; and the goaltenders are making up for the skaters’ mistakes — maybe the most critical component to sustaining success at this level.

“Since Christmastime, we’ve been .500, right around there, somewhere in that ballpark,” Erickson said. “I think we found our niche and ran out of time.”

That’s one theory. I’ve been collecting a few. Get all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:

Continue reading

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.

Reign 4, Idaho 3.

The Reign aren’t dead yet.

Michael Pelech’s second goal of the game at 15:31 broke a 3-3 tie and lifted the Reign to a win over Idaho in a back-and-forth game in Boise. Combined with the Victoria Salmon Kings’ 2-1 loss to the Bakersfield Condors, the Reign remain mathematically alive for the final Western Conference playoff berth.

Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s first two goals, and Beau Erickson stopped 40 of 43 shots with Jase Weslosky (lower-body injury) being spelled by emergency backup Tony Davenport.

Johnson’s wrist shot gave the Reign a 1-0 lead at 6:10 of the first period. Kael Mouillierat and Aki Seitsonen answered to give Idaho a 2-1 lead before Johnson evened the score with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season with only 24 seconds left in the second period.

Kyle Kraemer found Pelech for the go-ahead goal at 5:14 of the third period, but the lead was short-lived. Dustin Friesen netted the Steelheads’ second power-play goal of the game at 7:12 to tie the game at 3. Idaho, which leads the ECHL in power-play efficiency, finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

But Pelech came through with his eighth goal of the season after Kraemer was stood up by an Idaho defender in the offensive zone, and Pelech raced to the net with the loose puck.

Dusty Carlson stopped 20 of 24 for the Steelheads, who host the Reign at 6:10 p.m. Friday.

Victoria, which has now lost two in a row after winning back-to-back games, visits Stockton at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Stockton is 7-3-0 this season against the Salmon Kings and has won three straight.

The Reign must win, and need the Salmon Kings to lose in regulation, in order to keep their microscopic playoff hopes alive.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign claimed goalie Shane Connelly off waivers from Utah, likely as insurance for Weslosky.

The former University of Wisconsin standout has played for five ECHL teams in two professional seasons. In five games for Utah, Connelly went 1-2-0 with a 4.22 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. In 74 pro games, all at the ECHL level, he is 25-30-7-4 with a 3.26 GAA, .890 save percentage and five shutouts.

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.

Notes from an optional practice. Update.

Practice was optional today, but there was quite a crowd on hand to watch. Some local elementary-school children sat in the CBBA stands, and took a brief tour of the building, giving Shawn Germain some valuable practice should he ever aspire to be a field trip coordinator.

It was an eventful morning hockey-wise, too. Craig Gaudet arrived from Alaska; he and former college roommate Jase Weslosky had some time to catch up. Shawn Collymore, who hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury Feb. 23, said he “noticed a huge difference today, 20 to 30 percent better.” He’s questionable for the Reign’s next game Thursday in Las Vegas.

Beau Erickson, who dislocated his sacroiliac joint March 4, reported some progress after practice, his longest since the injury.

“It’s something I will play through,” he declared. “I’m hoping Thursday I’ll be healthy enough to play.”

Karl Taylor sounded more cautious, a luxury afforded by Weslosky’s strong start Saturday. “We’re not going to rush the situation,” he said. IR is still a possibility for Erickson, mainly because the Reign have to add Gaudet to the active roster today and will need to take someone else off.

More in tomorrow’s notebook. A couple more items from the chopping block:

• Doug Krantz’s first goal of the season Friday could be re-credited to someone else. Taylor said that the shot appeared to touch a stick before going into the net. Whether it was deflected by a Reign stick or a Wranglers stick will affect the final verdict.

• James McEwan offered a strong thought on his four-game suspension for punching Simon Ferguson: “If they’re trying to send a message,” he said, “I’m not sure what message they’re trying to send.”

• Brad Sholl, who last professional experience came with the Los Angeles Blades of the Roller Hockey International (RHI) league, was the goalie for the Kings’ alumni team on Saturday. Sholl is the manager at Toyota Sports Center, the Kings’ practice rink, and a local youth goalie instructor.

Update: Mike Zacharias is going on 3-day IR to make room for Gaudet.

Utah 5, Reign 1.

Tom May and the Utah Grizzlies capitalized on 10 power plays in a penalty-filled Reign loss in West Valley City.

May had three of the Grizzlies’ four power-play goals in a game that saw the Reign go 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

Goalie Mike Zacharias faced a 48-shot barrage and stopped 43 with last night’s starter, Beau Erickson, out due to injury. Oliver Freij, a local college student, served as the emergency backup.

James McEwan had 22 of the Reign’s 62 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct and a match penalty for fighting at 8:14 of the second period. Alex Bourret and Giffen Nyren fought twice; Jordan Hill fought former Reign defenseman Brian Kilburg; and Kyle Kraemer fought Marcus Carroll.

Utah collected 56 penalty minutes of its own in the final meeting between the two teams this season. Ryley Grantham, who had not collected a single penalty minute in his three previous games with the Grizzlies, was awarded 16 in a single third-period altercation with Luke Beaverson.

Defenseman Pat Bowen scored the Reign’s lone goal, at the end of an odd-man rush at 7:41 of the second period.

The scoresheet changed roughly a dozen times within a half-hour of last night’s game, so take this link with a grain of salt.

The Victoria Salmon Kings (27-2-91-2) lost 5-2 to the Bakersfield Condors to remain nine points ahead of the Reign (21-33-2-4, 48 points) in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The clock is ticking on the Reign’s season – they have 12 games left, Victoria has 13 left, and they need to make up at least nine points. Those odds are beyond long.

The Reign get four days off before hosting the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday.

Reign 3, Utah 2.

Jordan Hill’s power-play goal at 12:09 of the third period lifted the Reign to a 3-2 road win over the Utah Grizzlies. C.J. Stretch and Alex Bourret also scored for the Reign, who snapped a three-game winning losing streak.

David Walker, who returned to the lineup after missing a game with a lower-body injury, collected the assist on Hill’s goal, his second helper of the game. Bourret, Jordan Morrison and Dusty Collins also had assists.

The victory allowed the Reign (21-32-24) to temporarily move nine points behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings in the Western Conference standings. Victoria is currently playing the Bakersfield Condors.

The Reign moved to 4-5-1 in 10 games against the Grizzlies this season, with the 11th and final game tomorrow in West Valley City.

Correction: We had it wrong earlier by virtue of a scorer’s error. Beau Erickson allowed the Reign’s first two goals before coming off when he was injured in a third-period collision with a Utah player. Mike Zacharias stopped 6 of 6 shots in relief and was credited with the win.

Bakersfield 7, Reign 3.

The Reign suffered their most lopsided loss in the last eight games, temporarily halting their momentum and dashing any plans of quickly gaining ground in the Western Conference standings.

The game slipped gradually away after goals by Luke Beaverson and Jordan Morrison 18 seconds apart gave the Reign a 2-1 lead at 2:48 of the second period. Beaverson’s goal, helped by a net-front screen by C.J. Stretch, avenged Pascal Morency’s first-period putback for Bakersfield.

Morrison completed a 2-on-1 breakaway thanks to a great cross pass from Chaz Johnson, with Doug Krantz picking up the second assist.

The rest was (almost) all Condors, who scored six unanswered goals to send the Reign to their ninth loss in 11 head-to-head meetings this season. Morency and Guillaume Levebvre scored two goals apiece, and linemate Brad Snetsinger finished with three assists. Three others scored one goal apiece.

Shawn Collymore completed the scoring with a quick wrist shot past Brian Stewart (27 saves) with 34 seconds left, his team-leading 17th goal of the season.

Beau Erickson was the hard-luck loser. He had to face a season-high 53 shots for the second straight night, finishing with 46 saves.

The two teams play again at 6 p.m. Sunday in Bakersfield.

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