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 Brett O’Malley?

The rundown on forward Brett O’Malley:

2010-11 stats [career]: 8 goals, 16 points, minus-12 rating, 40 penalty minutes in 62 games.

Quote: “If I came back here with more confidence and experience, I know I could score more goals and be more of an offensive player.”

Pros: O’Malley was nothing if not consistent as a rookie: Willing and able to kill penalties, be an active forechecker, and bring energy in a second- or third-line role. The 27-year-old rarely took bad penalties, and an above-average slapshot helped him score eight goals.

Cons: The Reign were 19th in the ECHL in goals scored, and O’Malley’s limited puck skills and career stats suggest he won’t help turn that around. Karl Taylor seems to identify a new, quality defense-first rookie forward every summer (Chris Curran, Mike Howe, Robert Pearce) and O’Malley’s turn might be up.

Brett O’Malley post-season quotes.

From start to finish, Brett O’Malley was Brett O’Malley — a defensive-minded forward, asked to kill penalties and score when needed. For the most part, he did just that. His final stats weren’t much to bat an eye at — eight goals, eight assists in 62 games — but O’Malley continued to give Karl Taylor a reason to plug him into the lineup.

The 27-year-old rookie said there are more parts of his game than just defense. Whether or not he’ll get that chance depends on an important non-hockey factor. Here’s what O’Malley had to say after his final meeting with Taylor on Tuesday:
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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:

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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 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.

Stockton 4, Reign 3.

Make all the excuses you want – and there are some valid ones – but the Reign lost a game they needed to win Sunday.

Alex Bourret, Kyle Kraemer and Jordan Hill scored goals, and Mike Zacharias stopped 34 of 38 in his third start in as many nights. The Reign looked drained, and so did the Thunder, but the Reign couldn’t bury the equalizer after Hill’s power-play goal at 5:24 of the third period.

The standings picture is looking even more dire after the Reign gained only one of a possible six points this weekend. Mathematics dictates it’s too soon to write an epitaph, but … if it was going to take a miracle for the Reign to make the playoffs after their month of November (4-6-0), December (3-9-0), or January (4-8-2), they’ll need something more than that following a 6-6-3 February.

Realistically, they will need healthy returns from David Walker, Shawn Collymore, Justin Taylor and Chad Starling in March. Aside from the fact that all four are veteran leaders, that’s two of the team’s top three scorers (Walker and Collymore), the top-line left wing (Taylor) and one of two shutdown defensemen (Starling). 

Collymore can be activated before the Reign’s next game, Friday in Utah, but I don’t know how serious his “lower-body injury” is. Walker has tried to fight through a host of injuries already, and probably will again. So has Taylor. Starling is expected to be back by the third week of March.

In the meantime, they’ll need to bring in some quality reinforcements.

“We’re trying,” head coach Karl Taylor said. “We’re looking at different options. We have a lot of injuries right now. It’s not good timing, but it’s part of the game, part of the sport. It’s my job to find people to replace them.”

More from Taylor, as well as Zacharias, in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

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

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Walker’s streak could end, more from morning skate.

David Walker’s ironman streak looks like it will end tonight against the Idaho Steelheads.

“If I were a betting man,” he said, “I’d say yes.”

The captain skated on his own for about five minutes prior to the team’s morning skate, but reported afterward that his lower-body injury was still “a little tender.”

Walker, the only Reign player who has appeared in all 54 games this season, said that the injury is a recurring one that finally caught up to him.

“It’s just the buildup of one of the lower-body injuries that hadn’t gotten to this point until now,” he said. “You try to force yourself (to play), even with bumps and bruises.”

Walker could be replaced in the lineup by Jordan Hill, who is eligible to come off IR and took part in the full morning skate. Hill has missed the last seven games with a leg injury he suffered Feb. 9 against Stockton. The Reign could also skate five defensemen, a tactic that Karl Taylor hasn’t been afraid to employ recently.

The Reign have leaned heavily on Walker this season. He leads the team in assists (25) and game-winning goals (3), is second in shots (118), third in points (30) and penalty minutes (100), and tied for fourth in power-play goals (4). Minutes per game aren’t recorded by the ECHL, but it’s a safe bet that Walker would lead the team in that category, too.

Forward Brett O’Malley (lower body) also took part in the morning skate. Alex Bourret (head) did not.

Mike Zacharias is expected to get his second straight start in goal.

One other note: 10 days after leaving Ontario, the Elmira Jackals fired head coach Malcolm Cameron. The Jackals have three wins in their last 16 games despite a roster laden with NHL prospects from the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. General manager Robbie Nichols, interviewed here by a local TV station, will take over. Here’s the official release on ECHL.com.

Some random off-day updates.

The Reign didn’t practice Monday, probably a wise decision after a stretch of three games in three days in Bakersfield that saw its share of injuries and illness sweep through the team.

For tomorrow’s notebook Jordan Morrison discussed his recent hot streak – 14 points in his last nine games, and 29 points in his last 29. He’s a natural center and simply wasn’t as comfortable playing the wing; he believes switching back to the middle was the key to his turnaround.

That raised an interesting point: There are a lot of natural centers on this team who have played a ton of wing this season. Aaron Lewadniuk, C.J. Stretch, Justin Taylor, Brett O’Malley and Michael Pelech come to mind. Shawn Collymore has basically split the season at center and left wing and it hasn’t seemed to affect his production. Other natural centers have filtered through the roster – Jon Francisco, Tim Kraus, Pierre-Andre Bureau, Luke Popko – and probably all of them had to shift over at some point. Dusty Collins may be the only natural center who never seems to move.

That might help explain why the team has been better at faceoffs this season. At the same time, Morrison acknowledged that switching from center to wing isn’t necessarily easy, especially for a rookie transitioning from junior to pro.

More on that in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more tidbits from my interview this morning with Karl Taylor:
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