Chaz Johnson is Chicago-bound.

Chaz Johnson, who led the Reign in goals last season, has signed with the expansion Chicago Express.

It’s no secret how he was lured east. Johnson played for Express coach Steve Martinson for parts of five different seasons (2005-06, ’06-07, ’07-08, ’08-09, ’09-10) for the United Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs and ECHL’s Elmira Jackals. Johnson also expressed a desire at the end of the season to be closer to his young daughter in Elmira without actually playing for the Jackals. Mission accomplished.

Johnson was a threat to score, hit and fight every night — especially
in the final 20 games of the season, when he scored 11 of his
team-leading 22 goals. He finished the season with the American Hockey League-affiliate Manchester Monarchs.

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 Chaz Johnson?

The rundown on right wing Chaz Johnson:

2010-11 stats [career]: 22 goals, 36 points, 127 penalty minutes, minus-10 rating in 61 games.

Quote: “I definitely never rule Ontario out, going back there. I just don’t know. I have to see what’s been the best for me when it comes to that opportunity.”

Pros: Johnson was a threat to score, hit and fight every night — especially in the final 20 games of the season, when he scored 11 of his team-leading 22 goals. A scout once remarked that Johnson could play in the NHL if he ever learned how to finish; this may have been the year he figured it out.

Cons: At age 27, Johnson admits that the ability to move up to the AHL and money are his top priorities. How long would he be content in Ontario if the AHL call doesn’t come?

Chaz Johnson post-season quotes.

It would be an understatement to say that 2010-11 did not go the way Chaz Johnson expected.

That he ended it in the American Hockey League left him feeling optimistic after a year of mostly pessimism. Individually, his numbers were fine: Johnson led the team with 22 goals and his 127 penalty minutes were second to James McEwan.

But in four games with Manchester he went scoreless and was released just before the playoffs started. He talked about his return to the AHL, plus some off-the-ice issues that affected his play.
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Johnson released by Manchester.

An update from the AHL, where the number of Reign players on playoff rosters dropped by one Tuesday.

The Manchester Monarchs released Chaz Johnson just two days before their first-round series with the Binghamton Senators — Johnson’s last AHL employer — was scheduled to begin. Johnson appeared in four games with the Monarchs, skating as a bottom-six right wing, collecting two penalty minutes and no points in four games.

Still dotting AHL rosters are Dwight King, Bud Holloway, Jordan Nolan, Patrick Mullen, Jordan Hill, Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff (Manchester); Beau Erickson (Peoria); Geoff Walker (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton); Andrew Martens (Lake Erie) and Colten Teubert (Oklahoma City).

Including Jon Rheault, who ended the season with the Abbotsford Heat (who didn’t make the Calder Cup playoffs), that’s 12 former Reign players who ended the regular season at the next level.

Johnson gets the AHL call.

Justin Williams’ misfortune is Chaz Johnson’s good fortune … and the Reign’s misfortune.

Johnson was loaned to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs on Thursday, the first AHL call-up for Johnson this season. The Reign’s leading goal-scorer (22) scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday to prolong the Reign’s chase for the final Western Conference playoff berth. Wednesday’s effort also continued a torrid stretch for Johnson — he’s scored 12 of his goals in his last 21 games after scoring only 11 in his first 39.

Now it looks like the Reign will have to take on the Steelheads on Friday without Johnson.

That’s because the Monarchs were down a right wing when the Kings recalled Oscar Moller on Wednesday. Moller, who ranked second on Manchester in goals and points at the time of his recall, was summoned to the NHL after Kings right wing Justin Williams suffered a shoulder injury Monday against Calgary. Williams isn’t expected to play for at least another four weeks — possibly not until next season — and the Kings will need someone to fill in at right wing in the meantime.

On the surface, that leaves Johnson’s immediate availability in doubt.

Johnson is second on the Reign in penalty minutes (127), tied for second in points (36) and leads the team in shots on goal (156). He’s played 72 AHL games in his career, recording three goals, five assists and 82 penalty minutes, but none since the 2008-09 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.

Reign lose 6-3, plus more on Johnson, McEwan and Alex Morton.

The Reign lost in almost typical fashion. Take away the final three minutes of the first period, and they played one of their better games in recent memory – getting more scoring chances, more shots on goal, and more time in the offensive zone than Idaho. That doesn’t happen often.

Of course, you can’t take away those inexplicable three minutes of hockey in which Idaho scored three goals – twice on the power play and again at even strength.

“That’s kind of been the problem we’ve had all year, putting a 60-minute game together,” David Walker said. “Yeah, it’s one of our better games. We got blocked shots, put a lot of shots on net, did a lot of things we wanted to do at the start of the game. But when a team has a power play that good, you can’t give them opportunity after opportunity to do it.”

Walker went on to point out that playing well means little. Alaska is on its way to beating Victoria (the game is currently in the third period). Assuming the 4-2 score holds, the Reign would be left with 11 games in which to make up nine points on the seventh-place Salmon Kings to make the playoffs. So long as the Reign have at least five games to play, and Victoria keeps losing – a loss tonight would be its fourth straight – there’s a chance.

The Reign played without Chaz Johnson and James McEwan; tomorrow’s editions
of the Sun and Daily Bulletin will have plenty on the Reign’s reaction
to the ECHL suspensions. I didn’t have room for many details on the game, so here are a few:
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McEwan, Johnson suspended, fined along with two Utah players.

Chaz Johnson and James McEwan will miss the Reign’s game tonight against the Idaho Steelheads. Both were suspended – Johnson for one game, McEwan for four – along with Simon Ferguson (five games) and Riley Emmerson (one) for their actions in Saturday’s game between the Reign and Utah Grizzlies.

All four players were fined an undisclosed amount by the league.

I have left a message with the ECHL, which does not usually comment on suspensions/fines, and will try to get comments from both Reign players tonight.

Considering the Reign only have 12 games left in the season, the loss of McEwan for one-third of those games is especially impactful. He will not be able to return until the Reign visit Bakersfield March 18. He and Johnson are arguably the team’s most physical players, an element that could be noticeably missing tonight against the Steelheads.