Poll: Should the Reign bring back C.J. Stretch?

The rundown on center C.J. Stretch:

2010-11 stats [career]: 9 goals, 21 points, minus-8 rating, 33 penalty minutes in 46 games.

Quote: “Honestly the goal is to play at the next level somewhere. … Whatever team it is at the next level, that’s what team I’ll play on. … If not, I see myself playing for the Reign again.”

Pros: Always among the Reign’s most creative offensive players, Stretch was finally playing regular minutes, scoring consistently, and defending reasonably well by the end of the season. The Irvine native also single-handedly brought at least a dozen patrons to the stands at every home game.

Cons: Stretch is not particularly big (5-11, 195) or fast, and didn’t finish scoring chances nearly as well as he created them. More frustrating was his defense; Stretch must prove he can be more than just a power-play specialist.

C.J. Stretch post-season quotes.

C.J. Stretch was familiar to many in Citizens Business Bank Arena before the season started, having grown up about an hour down the road in Irvine and honing his skills on the local rinks. He also appeared in one game at the end of last season for the Reign after his final season in the Western Hockey League ended.

The head start may have helped, but Stretch still took some time to gain the trust of Karl Taylor. He finished with nine goals, 12 assists and a minus-8 rating in 46 games, but it was really a tale of two seasons for Stretch. His first 26 games: 3G, 5A. His final 20: 6G, 7A.

Here’s what he had to say looking back (and forward):
Continue reading

Idaho 6, Reign 4.

No more than an hour has passed since the end of the Reign’s 2010-11 season, and already the dasher-board advertisements have been removed from CBBA, the benches have been broken down, and the sold-out seats sit empty.

If six months of hockey just ended within the last hour here, you could have fooled me.

Indeed, the Reign ushered in their summer break with a 6-4 loss that didn’t lend itself to any game-as-microcosm-of-season metaphors.

They started hot, leading 2-0 after three minutes, 3-1 after 11 minutes, and 3-2 after 20. Maybe the ice was tilted east tonight, because Idaho scored three goals in 8:24 to start the second period, taking a 5-3 lead and chasing starting goalie Beau Erickson (15 saves). Jase Weslosky performed very well in relief, stopping 19 of 20 shots, but it was too late. The scoring chances were close to even in the third period, but the Reign just didn’t convert as many as their opponent.

Michael Pelech, Justin Taylor, Alex Bourret and C.J. Stretch scored the goals. Stretch had an assist and a (very quick) fight, too, recording a rare Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

I’ll save a recap of the season, and all its foibles, for the Reign’s usual perch on page 2 of Tuesday’s sports section. There will be an end-of-season team banquet tomorrow, before the players meet with Karl Taylor on Monday for one last meeting and to gather their stuff.

Here are some end-of-the season notes:
Continue reading

Las Vegas 7, Reign 4.

Mike Zacharias summed up the collective frustration in the building by tossing his stick when the game’s final goal sailed into the Reign net.

“It’s not them scoring on our goalie, it’s them scoring on us,” David Walker said. “We all take a piece of the pie.”

But clearly the Reign need more than the tandem of Zacharias and emergency backup Dennis Cook, who can’t play unless Zacharias is hurt. That’s why Karl Taylor, who almost never names his starting goalie, named Jase Weslosky the starting goalie for Saturday night’s game against Las Vegas — and Weslosky wasn’t even in Ontario yet.

The Wranglers’ seventh goal, by Ryan Huddy, was one of only two Zacharias allowed that you would expect the goalie to make most of the time. The other five were the result of defensive-zone turnovers, missed backchecks, and odd-man rushes against — the unholy triumvirate of defensive lapses that has doomed the Reign all season.

That said, Zacharias was lucky that he didn’t give up nine goals. One shot trickled through between his legs, got behind him and was heading for the goal line before Alex Bourret (goal, assist) swept it out. Another scoring chance ended when Justin Bernhardt hit the post in front of a wide-open net from — no joke — three feet away.

Doug Krantz, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch and Bourret scored the goals; Kraemer and Bourret’s came on the power play. The Reign outshot an opponent for the second straight game (40-31) and their offense was humming so well, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a comeback from down 6-4. That’s why Huddy’s goal, with 2:02 left, was so frustrating.

More on the Weslosky and Craig Gaudet trades in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes/observations:
Continue reading

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.

Reign 4, Idaho 3.

The Reign’s 3-2 deficit in third period wasn’t too much to overcome on Wednesday, and they can only hope their six-point deficit in the standings isn’t too large, either.

Clearly, the Reign are a team in the mood for comebacks. Jordan Morrison’s goal with 4:50 left in the third period, and an overtime goal by Kyle Kraemer, lifted them to a 4-3 win over Idaho before an announced crowd of 6,644 at CBBA. Mike Zacharias (10-11-3-3) stopped 36 of 39 shots to win his second straight start.

Kraemer also scored a power-play goal in the first period and Justin Taylor scored at 7:25 of the second to give the Reign a 2-0 lead. Idaho went ahead on unanswered goals by Cody Purves, Mark Derlago and Junior Lessard.

The Reign went 2-for-3 on the power play and also killed off a pair of third-period power plays after Purves scored on the Steelheads’ first man-advantage shift of the game.

The Victoria Salmon Kings (24-27-1-2, 51 points) still hold the seventh and final playoff position in the Western Conference, six points ahead of the Reign (20-30-2-3, 45 points). The Salmon Kings have one game in hand, but the pressure is on them now to beat Utah in their next game Friday.

A few more notes:
Continue reading

Reign 3, Alaska 2.

Print out the scoresheet and frame it: The Reign won at home.

Dusty Collins’ short-handed goal at 5:46 of the third period served as the game-winner, new defenseman Jason Fredricks got the game-tying goal on a lucky bounce off the boards, and C.J. Stretch scored on the Reign’s first shot of the game.

That allowed a strong 34-save effort by Beau Erickson to hold up before an announced crowd of 6,433.

Alaska saw its streak of 11 games with a point, including 10 wins in those 11 games, come to an end.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin, including Karl Taylor’s thoughts on the rare illegal-hit-to-the-head penalty that got Chaz Johnson ejected from the game in the first period.

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).

No Dylan Hunter, and other notes.

Reign coach Karl Taylor said through a team spokesperson that Monday’s ECHL transactions report erroneously showed the Reign signing a defenseman named Dylan Hunter. A forward by the same name, the son of former NHL player Dale Hunter, is under contract to the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. Hockeydb.com has no record of any defensemen named Dylan Hunter, so we’re guessing the ECHL goofed.

Also Monday, left wing James McEwan was placed on 3-day injured reserve while center C.J. Stretch was transferred to 7-day injured reserve and defenseman Eric Doyle (upper-body) was transferred to 21-day injured reserve.

No word yet as to whether defenseman Doug Krantz will be joining the team in Victoria, where the Reign will play Tim Kraus and the Victoria Salmon Kings in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday.

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

Kraus: ‘I knew it was coming.’ Update.

Tim Kraus may have been the least surprised of anyone when he was placed on waivers Friday.

An original member of the Reign, the center from Garden Grove had been a healthy scratch in four straight games.

“I suggested to Karl that I wanted to be moved and he tried to move me, I believe,” Kraus said. “I think I talked to him early in the week. I think he tried to get me into a good situation but it wasn’t going to happen through trade.”
Continue reading