Reign hit hard with suspensions.

The Reign will be forced to play without their leading goal scorer, their top fighter and their highest-scoring defenseman for the near future.

The ECHL suspended right wing Derek Couture for five games, left wing Chris Cloud for four games and defenseman Steven Tarasuk for three games as “a result of actions prior to” Saturday night’s 6-4 victory over the Utah Grizzlies. Cloud was also suspended a fifth game “under
Rule #23.7, which states any player who incurs a total of three (3) game
misconduct penalties for fighting-related infractions shall be
automatically suspended for his team’s next game.

All three players were fined, as were head coach Jason Christie and the Reign organization.

The league also suspended Grizzlies defenseman Cody Lampl (four games), center Jordan Foreman (four games), and defenseman Matt Sorteberg (three games). They were fined along with two other Utah players (center Mitch Wahl and defenseman Nick Tuzzolino), coach Kevin Colley and the Grizzlies organization.

After Saturday’s game, Colley said that Reign players were “shooting slapshots down at our guys in warmup.” Reign coach Jason Christie said Monday that pucks were flying in both directions during the warmup period, and he was not disappointed with his team’s response.

Messages left for Christie and Reign president Justin Kemp were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

Couture, Cloud, Tarasuk, Lampl, Foreman and Sorteberg all received fighting majors and game misconducts. The game-misconduct penalties will be counted toward each player’s suspension, meaning Couture and Cloud are eligible to return next Wednesday against Stockton, and Tarasuk is eligible to return this Saturday against Utah.
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Chris Cloud gets first AHL call-up.

The Reign lost their second forward in three days to the Manchester Monarchs on Wednesday.

Left wing Chris Cloud, who leads the team in major penalties, signed a pro tryout contract with the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, joining linemate J.D. Watt at the next level. Cloud has five goals, 10 points and 84 penalty minutes this season, appearing in all 22 games. He is tied for second in the ECHL in major penalties with 10.

The Monarchs recently lost center Cam Paddock to a four-game suspension, so Cloud and Watt could conceivably return to the Reign soon.

Still, it’s quite an opportunity for Cloud, who spent the last two seasons in the Central Hockey League and has never played in the AHL before.

The Reign could be without two-thirds of their toughest line Friday in Alaska. Count on Shayne Neigum seeing plenty of time at forward, and Kevin Estrada getting a long look in his debut game, with Bill Bagron centering the line.

Reign 4, Stockton 2.

The Reign probably won’t frame Tuesday’s victory and hang it on a wall, but it could serve as a good jolt in the arm. (The team actually has some framed photographs of victory scenes hanging around their locker room, so the cliche works.)

Despite getting pushed around for the better part of three periods, and playing sloppy, turnover-prone hockey on occasion, they left CBBA with a series-opening 4-2 win. Chris Cloud had a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” — a goal, assist and fight — and the line of Geoff Irwin, C.J. Stretch and Derek Couture dominated the Thunder all night, combining for three goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating.

Stretch in particular was being draped all night, but still managed to shed the defense for a goal and two assists — both primary assists from behind the net on goals by Irwin.

“It’s frustrating for him,” Couture said. “Teams are going to look at his stats, see that Stretch is leading the team in points and play hard on him. … He fought through it.”

On a night when the Reign were outshot 37-23, the final score could have been quite a bit higher. But Darcy Kuemper heated up as the game went along, stopping 35 of 37 shots – including 16 in the final 20 minutes.

J.D. Watt had two assists, defenseman Chris Huxley played a solid defensive game and finished plus-3, and Shayne Neigum delivered a spirited bout with Stockton’s Jordan Foreman in the third period.

Plenty more details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few notes that won’t make the paper:

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Reign 4, Bakersfield 1.

The Reign are on a roll.

There wasn’t much to complain about after a 4-1 win that saw four players score goals, a perfect 7-for-7 effort on the penalty kill and a 2-for-4 power play performance. Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves and didn’t have to be spectacular in improving to 4-0-0 on the season.

Matt Tassone, C.J. Stretch, Chris Cloud and Bill Bagron scored the goals. Steven Tarasuk had two assists, while Shayne Neigum, Brady Calla, Francois Brisebois and Bagron had one each. Bagron also finished a plus-2 on the evening.

The win was the Reign’s third straight (during which they’ve outscored opponents 14-4) and their fourth in the last five games (a 4-0-1 stretch).

No home games for another eight days, but the Reign are in Alaska Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three games against the Aces.

Election night meant early deadlines, which meant I didn’t have as much time as usual after this game for quote- and information-gathering, but here’s a few items that won’t make tomorrow’s game story:

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Talking tough guys, and a few notes.

Tomorrow’s story will focus on Chris Cloud and Shayne Neigum, who are vying to become the Reign’s next enforcer. The job officially became up for grabs when James McEwan signed with the South Carolina Stingrays, and head coach Jason Christie said he might keep both Cloud and Neigum on the opening-day roster.

Here’s something you might not have known about Cloud:

A couple other notes from practice:

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Reign sign Cloud, Bagron.

Jason Christie’s first two player signings as head coach of the Reign were announced Monday, and he didn’t have to reach too far into his past to find them.

Forwards Chris Cloud and Bill Bagron both played for Christie last season with the Bloomington PrairieThunder. Neither brings a wealth of experience in the ECHL to Ontario, though Cloud did appear for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in 2009. Judging by their stats, Cloud and Bagron might not be slated for scoring-line roles, but that’s no surprise. Christie said he like the team’s skill up front between Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch, Derek Couture and Geoff Irwin.

Cloud is a grappler. Here’s a clip of him fighting (and winning) during his brief time in the AHL: http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/86289. The 22-year-old racked up 103 penalty minutes in 53 games after arriving in Bloomington last season via a midseason trade with the Tulsa Oilers. Cloud has some scoring potential; he once potted 15 goals during his overage season in the WHL, with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2008-09.

One more factoid on Cloud: He is from the alliteratively named Waywayseecappo, Manitoba and his Facebook fan club page lists him as a member of the Waywayseecappo First Naton, Manitoba.

Bagron, 29, tallied 53 goals and 134 points in 212 games over the last three seasons. He followed the PrairieThunder from the IHL to the CHL in 2010, scoring 16 goals and 48 points in 66 games last season. The Alaska native was a college teammate of former Reign defenseman Dan Knapp and Kings forward Scott Parse at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

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