A brief note on the whereabouts of Chris Curran.

The Reign opened training camp Friday and, for the first time, Chris Curran wasn’t there.

When healthy, he was one of the most consistent players in the Reign’s brief existence.

“When healthy” is the crucial phrase there — were it not for injuries that ultimately ended his professional hockey career, Curran would probably be in Ontario right now.

The 27-year-old was an agitating forward who built his game on blocking shots, winning puck battles and make punishing body checks. Some of that was lost after he broke his femur crashing into the end boards in the final game of the 2008-09 regular season.

“It was a really tough mental battle; coming back from something traumatic was a battle itself,” he said in a telephone interview from his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario. “The way that I play, I put everything into it – block shots, play the body, do anything for the team. This year after my femur break I didn’t feel quite like myself.”

Curran played the entire year with screws in his femur, which he had surgery to remove at the end of the season. He also endured bone chips in his right leg and ankle, the result of blocking a shot. Then during a March series in Alaska, Curran broke his nose after taking a high stick to the face, which required surgery and a full visor for the remainder of the season.

“I tried to have (surgery) done when I was awake,” he said. “That didn’t go well. So I went under on a Thursday (March 18) prior to a three-in-three weekend series and played the next three days.”

The season was so physically challenging that Curran said he is still home resting before he decides what’s next in life. The only plans he’s made are to stay in the area of Missisauga and Toronto, which is 17 miles east.

Curran has no regrets.

“I truly do feel satisfied with my hockey career and it ending in Ontario,” he said. “I had an awesome experience, great fans, met a lot of good people. I’ve accepted it. I have to look after my body now.”

Training camp has arrived.

The Reign’s training camp begins today (9:30 a.m. to noon, Center Ice Arena). Check out today’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for this weekend’s dates/times (all are free and open to the public) as well as a roster, and “five burning questions.” There’s going to be at least one name missing from the roster, as there are always some late additions. Check back here for more names as we get ’em.

Here are a few news and notes that didn’t make the paper:

• Former Reign forward Jon Rheault is either making the Calgary Flames’ opening-day roster, or becoming one of the last players cut from training camp. According to matchsticksandgasoline.com, he’ll be on the ice again tonight when the Flames take on the New York Islanders. If you caught the Flames’ win over the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night on the NHL Network, you would have heard a wise TSN commentator identify Rheault’s last ECHL team as the Ontario Reign of Ontario, California.

• Don’t expect Aaron Lewadniuk in camp today, because apparently he’s still busy scoring goals for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Matt Delahey might be. He was released from his tryout with the Providence Bruins.

• No updates as of Thursday night on any of the other AHL campers contracted to the Reign, including Dusty Collins in San Antonio and the Manchester Monarchs gang.

• I had been planning a story on Chris Curran and Shawn Germain to run this week. The two 27-year-olds where coming off serious injuries and decided to hang up their skates over the summer. Haven’t gotten a hold of Germain yet, but I’ll post what I’ve written about Curran here in the coming days.

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Francisco re-signs; qualifying offers sent.

The Reign’s 2010-11 roster began to take shape Friday, when Jon Francisco was announced as the first signing of the new season and eight qualifying offers were mailed out.

Francisco, 29, is the only captain in team history and a valuable two-way center. In 72 games, he had 15 goals and 45 points – both down from the previous season (20 goals, 48 points), when Francisco appeared in 63 games.

“He’s been one of our core guys,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said. “He had a decent season last year. We’re going to expect more out of him next year, and I know he’ll expect more out of himself.”

Qualifying offers were tendered to a league-maximum eight players: James McEwan, Greg Hogeboom, Jon Rheault, Geoff Walker, Curtis Darling, Peter Lenes, Mike Zacharias and Chris Curran.

None of the qualified players have re-signed with the Reign. The qualifying offer remains open until August 1, or until it is accepted by the player, during which time he cannot be traded.

The Reign will retain each qualified player’s ECHL rights for next season, regardless of whether or not he returns. For example, Taylor does not expect Peter Lenes back after the forward recently signed in Austria. But if Lenes decides to return to the ECHL, “maybe we’ll keep him, or maybe we’ll (trade) his rights.”

The complete list of qualified ECHL players can be found here.

Reign announce season-ending roster.

ECHL season-ending rosters were released today, the lists of up to 20 players from whom teams can qualify eight. The Reign’s season-ending roster included exactly 20:

Mike Egener, Chad Starling, Jon Francisco, Tim Kraus, Tony Voce, Peter Lenes, Curtis Darling, Chris Curran, Geoff Walker, Greg Hogeboom, David Walker, Sean O’Connor, Mike Zacharias, Jon Rheault, Dan Knapp, Luis Tremblay, Todd Jackson, Robert Pearce, Shawn Germain and James McEwan.

Of the players who finished 2009-10 on the Reign’s roster, five are missing:

• Defenseman Andrew Martens, who has signed in the Central Hockey League;

• Forwards C.J. Stretch and Jordan Nolan, who were playing on Amateur Tryout contracts, and therefore not eligible for the season-ending roster;
• Forward Michael Pelech and defenseman Colten Teubert, who were assigned to the Reign by the Kings.

In other words, the season-ending roster looks just as expected.

The next step in the process of whittling down who will be back next season is submitting qualifying offers.

Each team is entitled to qualify a maximum of eight players
the list of 20 by extending a qualifying offer no later than July 1. Of
eight qualified players, no more than four can be veterans (260 regular-season professional hockey games played as of the start of the 2010-11
season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded. Teams are
required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract
to July 1.

Reign announce protected list.

There were no surprises on the Reign’s protected list, announced Wednesday:

Kellen Briggs, Dusty Collins, Chris Curran, Curtis Darling, Mike
Egener, Jon Francisco, Shawn Germain, Greg Hogeboom, Todd Jackson, Dan Knapp, Tim
Kraus, Peter Lenes, Andrew Martens, James McEwan, Sean O’Connor, Robert Pearce,
Jon Rheault, Chad Starling, Jason Tejchma, Luis Tremblay, Tony Voce, David
Walker, Geoff Walker, Mike Zacharias.
Continue reading “Reign announce protected list.” »

Las Vegas 7, Reign 6, shootout.

This game could be summed up in one word: Crazy.

It ended in the 12th round of the shootout when Jerry Pollastrone scored on Curtis Darling, and Tony Voce missed on the other end, ending the Reign’s team-record-tying win streak at six.

The Reign gained a point in the standings but gave up two, leaving both teams tied for the seventh and final playoff position in the National Conference standings. Technically, the Wranglers are in seventh place by virtue of the higher winning percentage.

It was only possible because of Vegas’ four goals in the third period, which negated a 5-2 lead by the Reign and sent the game to overtime.

Continue reading “Las Vegas 7, Reign 6, shootout.” »

Lenes, Pielmeier, etc.

In case you missed today’s story, including items on Peter Lenes and Chris Curran, click here.

Also, if you’ve been double-dipping in my Ducks blog, you will have noticed that Bakersfield Condors goaltender Timo Pielmeier is in Anaheim. The Reign host the Condors on Sunday, but Pielmeier is expected to be back by then; head coach Randy Carlyle said that Jonas Hiller is supposed to rejoin the Ducks in practice Sunday and he probably won’t need three goalies. 

Odds and ends.

Before we get to the current state of the Reign, an update for all you Bud Holloway fans out there … he has a new blog up on the Manchester Monarchs’ Web site. “Jersey Shore” is mentioned. So is the movie “Avatar.”

Anyway, here are a few notes and quotes left over from Wednesday’s practice that did not make my notebook today …

Continue reading “Odds and ends.” »

Reign 5, Utah 3.

Mike Zacharias and Tony Voce haven’t done much for the Ontario Reign lately.

Yet each was instrumental in the Reign’s win at the E-Center, which ended a four-game losing streak for the Reign and set up a rubber match Monday night in West Valley City.
Making his first start since Dec. 26, Zacharias stopped 28 of 31, while Voce scored twice, his first goals since Dec. 27. Jon Francisco added two assists, and Chris Curran, Mike Howe and Greg Hogeboom also scored for the Reign (15-20-3-3).

Curran scored short-handed 1:44 into the game, but Utah (18-17-2-2) answered with goals by all-stars Ryan Kinasewich and A.J. Perry in the second. Down 2-1 at 5:36 of second period, Howe scored his third goal of the season 28 seconds later. Howe had not scored since Dec. 12 and was playing his second game after a nine-day lay off.

But the Reign weren’t done. Voce scored his 10th goal of the season just 36 seconds later to provide a 3-2 lead that the Reign wouldn’t relinquish. Voce scored again at 17:03 of the third, and Hogeboom added a power-play goal in the third period to make it 5-2.

Las Vegas 2, Reign 1.

Todd Jackson returned to the Reign lineup and scored Ontario’s only goal, but the Reign lost 2-1 to the Las Vegas Wranglers at Orleans Arena on Saturday night.

Jackson could do nothing about the eventual game-winning goal by the Wranglers — he was in the penalty box for tripping at 4:48 of the third period when Shay Stephenson scored to put Las Vegas up 2-0. It was the only power-play goal in nine man-advantage shifts for Las Vegas. The Reign also survived a 40-second long, 5-on-3 penalty kill in the first period.

With 4:15 left in the third period, Jackson halved the Wranglers’ lead with his first goal of the season, taking a pass from Chris Curran, taking advantage of a Michael Pelech screen and firing past Michael Ouzas. It was Jackson’s sixth game of the season and his first since Dec. 11 in Idaho.

Friday night in Ontario, the Reign also fell behind 2-0 early in the third period but were able to come back and tie; they never got the second goal Saturday, even after Curtis Darling (30 saves) was pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute. Ouzas stopped 22 of 23 for the Wranglers (10-14-2-1), who still trail the Reign (13-13-2-1) by six points for second place in the Pacific Division standings.

Reign forward Tony Voce missed his 11th straight game with a strained MCL, and defenseman David Walker did not play a night after suffering a scary head injury.

The Reign have a week off before facing the Wranglers in Las Vegas again on Dec. 26.