Tough choices in goal, on defense.

Expect a starting goalie matchup of Beau Erickson for the Reign and Bryan Pitton for the Stockton Thunder, based on the looks of things at the morning skate for both teams today at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

Erickson was in goal for wins Friday and Saturday against Elmira, while Mike Zacharias took the only loss of the weekend. But Erickson won despite allowing nine goals in the two games, while Zacharias only allowed two goals in the loss.

Reign coach Karl Taylor is hoping one goalie will make the decision-making process easier.

“We’re trying to get someone to take the ball and run with it. We prefer to have one guy,” Taylor said. “We’ll see.”
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Starling: Surgery Wednesday, out 7-8 weeks.

Chad Starling will undergo surgery next Wednesday – actually two surgeries, one to repair a sports hernia and another to repair an adductor muscle – that will sideline the defenseman for 7-8 weeks from that point. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Craig Smith at the Beach District Surgery Center in Redondo Beach.

“I’m hoping I can make it back quicker,” Starling said. “I’m going to work with Bob (Reign trainer Bobby Walls). He’s a top trainer in the league.”

Recently, Starling had been aggressively rehabbing the injury off the ice with a six-week core muscle program. Those six weeks were up last week. Starling hasn’t played since Nov. 20.

A seven-week recovery period projects to March 16. The Reign begin a six-game, 10-day road trip the next day, before returning home for the final week of the regular season.

“Hopefully I’ll be back in time for playoffs,” Starling said.

Doyle is cut, and more notes from the morning skate.

Eric Doyle’s long-awaited reward for being activated from injured reserve was hardly a reward at all. The defenseman was released by the Reign, a disappointing conclusion to what had been a promising start to his tenure in Ontario.

“I feel awful for the kid,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said. “Good kid. Tough circumstance, but it’s just something we have to do.”

The 21-year-old defenseman had a goal and six points in 12 games to start his rookie year. Four of his five assists came on the power play, a role that hasn’t been easy for the Reign to fill since Doyle originally was diagnosed with a lower-body injury on Nov. 28.

“He hasn’t skated for seven weeks, or six weeks, so we released him from
his contract. We need to get bodies in here now, with our situation in
the standings. We don’t have time to mess around. We need to win now.

“He’s all healed and cleared, and now getting him back in shape and all those things – we need to get someone in here sooner.”

A few more notes from the morning skate:
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The turnover on defense (pun intended).

Quick, how many Reign defensemen who played Wednesday were on the team to start the season?
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Delahey leaves the team, and other notes from practice.

Put another defenseman at the top of the Reign’s Christmas wish list.

Matt Delahey has left for the University of Saskatchewan and has been suspended by the team. The 21-year-old rookie from Moose Jaw had two goals and three assists in 20 games in his first pro season, and played his final game Saturday against Bakersfield.

Delahey did not sign after he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Last year he had four goals and 22 points in his final WHL season, split between the Regina Pats and the Chilliwack Bruins.

Delahey was one of a few absentees at today’s intrasquad scrimmage, along with defenseman Luke Beaverson and right wing Jeff Corey, who were given maintenance days. Defenseman Chad Starling (lower body) skated on his own for 30-45 minutes prior to the scrimmage. His target return date has been pushed back to Sunday.

Plenty more in tomorrow’s notebook, including why Shawn Collymore didn’t play Saturday and why Jon Francisco might not be standing behind the Reign’s bench much longer.

Dorich set to debut tonight.

Al Dorich will make his Reign debut tonight, wearing Tim Kraus’ (and Jon Rheault’s) old number 12 on the blue line.

The 24-year-old rookie, acquired Thursday from the Gwinnett Gladiators for future considerations, will wear his fifth different uniform of the young season. The Orland Park, Illinois native almost made bouncing around sound easy.

“That’s the way it is in pro hockey,” Dorich said. “I’m just happy to be here in Ontario
now. I don’t think you ever get used to it. You have to find your niche
somewhere, hopefully it’s here. It’s been interesting the whole way
through here in this process, but you learn with each step you go.”

Even though Dorich has been living out of a suitcase since the season began, he said finding playing time wasn’t a problem in Wheeling (where he played two games), Kalamazoo (three) or Gwinnett (one). He would have played two games in Gwinnett if the Gladiators’ game Tuesday had not been canceled when a puck got caught in the Zamboni prior to the game.

Coach Karl Taylor doesn’t believe that Dorich’s frequent presence on the transactions wire reflects his ability – or the lack thereof.

“It’s more reflective of different rosters than him,” Taylor said. “Dusty (Collins) played with
him at Northern Michigan, said he’s a great kid, a defensive defenseman.”

Playing Dorich means that Chad Starling will have to wait at least another day to come off injured reserve.

Taylor said he would have preferred to add an offensive-minded defenseman to a team that’s struggling to score, “but the market bears what it bears.”

“There isn’t a power-play guy out
there,” Taylor said. “We only have five healthy guys. We were happy to get Alan, don’t
get me wrong, but we were looking for more of a power-play guy.”

Instead, the Reign get a defense-first blueliner who has scored two goals – both in junior – since he first suited up for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers as a 17-year-old in 2003-04.

“I’m a defensive player,” Dorich said. “As far as strengths, one-on-one defensive play,
penalty kill – I love playing the penalty kill. That’s where
I make my money, my bread and butter, the thing I enjoy the most,
probably.”

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.”

Injury updates, and more (!) from practice.

The Reign became four teams of four in practice Monday. Their goal: Scoring goals.

“Our whole goal today was to have a whole scoring practice,” coach Karl Taylor said. “Obviously we’ve struggled with that. That was our focus today. We were out there for an hour and 45 minutes, it was based on scoring and having some competition within it.

“We can’t complain about our defensive play, although at times it’s gotten lax and there are things we need to improve. We have to score more. That’s our number one issue. We have to try to get guys attentive to details and creating more chances.”

As they have each of the last two ECHL seasons, the Reign rank last in the league in goals per game.

Right wing Chaz Johnson, who left midway through Saturday’s game in Bakersfield, was back on the ice after suffering a recurrence of the same shoulder injury that cost him three games in November. He said he expects to play Friday.

Chad Starling (lower body) is hopeful he can come back this weekend too, but he hasn’t been cleared to practice yet. The veteran defenseman, who is eligible to come off 21-day IR on Friday, worked out off the ice.

David Walker also missed practice, taking a “maintenance day” often given to veteran players. Also off the ice were forward Jon Francisco and defenseman Eric Doyle, both of whom remain on IR.

As for the competition, the “black team” of Kyle Kraemer, Lane Caffaro, Dusty Collins and Shawn Collymore were the big winners.

McEwan won’t debut tonight.

James McEwan won’t make his debut tonight for the Reign. McEwan went from the non-roster “previous injury status” to 3-day injured reserve.

Adding him gives the Reign 24 players counting IR and the active roster, which sounds like a lot, but Karl Taylor said “we’re a little bit crowded, we’re not overly crowded,” and right now there’s room for everyone on the payroll and in the team apartments.

Kyle Kraemer (knee), Eric Doyle (upper-body), Chad Starling (lower-body) and Jon Francisco (lower-body) all remain on IR. Doyle, who was transferred from 3-day to 7-day IR, said he isn’t sure if his current upper-body injury is related to the last one. Starling was transferred from 7-day to 21-day IR and can be activated a week from Friday.

The Reign host the Las Vegas Wranglers at 7 p.m. at The Bank.

Reign 4, Utah 3.

There’s no place like home, but there’s been no place better for the Reign than the road.

A 4-3 win over the Utah Grizzlies on Friday at the E-Center was the Reign’s fourth straight win away from The Bank. Goals by Aaron Lewadniuk, Chaz Johnson, Michael Pelech (short-handed) and Lane Caffaro ended the Reign’s losing skid at 2, and toppled the best team in the Western Conference.

The Reign played with the same lineup as they did in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Bakersfield Condors. Defenseman Pat Bowen played his second straight game in favor of Eric Doyle and Matt Delahey; Chad Starling (lower-body injury) is still on IR. Forwards Kyle Kraemer (knee) and Jon Francisco (lower-body) remained out, and center Tim Kraus was scratched again.

Kellen Briggs made his 17th straight start and stopped 31 of 34.

Pelech also had an assist, as did Luke Beaverson, Brett O’Malley and Jordan Hill.

The two teams meet again at 6 p.m. tonight. More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.