This is usually the time of year when the ECHL is making preparations for its annual All-Star Game. However, for the first time since 1993, there will be no game this season.
In its stead is something much cheaper and arguably more fun. Through February 5, fans can vote online for the “2012 Silver Skater Fantasy Team,” a concept that seems entirely unique based on its description on the ECHL website.
Fans are allowed one vote per e-mail address to choose one player on each team who will wear a “special Silver Skater jersey” during a select home game. There are no criteria for how to vote. You could, conceivably, vote for the worst player on each team — although this appears to be discouraged by listing four players under each team’s logo (they all seem to be having good seasons). Write-in votes are allowed, however. The top two vote-getters will wear the special jersey.
We don’t know what the jerseys will look like, but an educated guess is that the snazzy logo you see at right will be featured prominently. No word yet as to when the Reign have scheduled their “Silver Skater” home game.
The four Reign players listed are C.J. Stretch, Derek Couture, Vincent LoVerde and Chris Huxley. It’s tempting to list the merits of each player at this point, but since there really are no voting criteria, it’s hard to tell where to begin. (Who looks best in silver??)
Still, as alternate ideas go, this one has its merits. The concept of minor-league all-star games is inherently flawed, since the best players in the league are getting promoted to the AHL on a daily basis. Staging a game is a logistical headache — just ask anyone who was around when the ECHL All-Star Game was played at CBBA in 2010. This is less formal and less expensive and, thus, more appropriate to the concept. Even if it has no criteria.
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:
The Reign had a full week off since their last game and the practice seemed to pay off. They never trailed in their 4-2 win Friday, getting goals from Steven Tarasuk, C.J. Stretch, Matt Tassone and Francois Brisebois. Darcy Kuemper allowed a pair of breakaway goals to Ian O’Connor but made all the routine saves, and one amazing save in the final minute, among his 21 stops.
The power play finished 2-for-4 on the goals by Tarasuk and Stretch — the first goal of the year for both players — after going 2-for-22 to start the season. Dylan Yeo had two assists and Tassone, Tarasuk, Brisebois, Stretch, Brady Calla and Chris Huxley (making his Reign debut) had one assist each. Huxley was paired with Vincent LoVerde and both defensemen finished plus-2 for the game.
Christie had words of praise for Huxley, as well as a strong overall forechecking effort that stifled Stockton at even strength.
Derek Couture fought Garet Hunt in the first period (advantage: Couture), Shayne Neigum fought O’Connor in the second period (advantage: O’Connor), and Stretch nearly came to blows with Jordan Fulton late in the first period. A scrum just after the final horn sounded was broken up before it could fully materialize.
Chris Huxley was the co-captain at Harvard University last year. He played on the Crimson’s top defensive pair with a recent NHL draft pick, Danny Biega. He once was presented an academic/athletic excellence award (the John Carlton Memorial Award) by former Boston Bruin Johnny Bucyk.
Now, he’s just a number. Number 16 in the line of defensemen who have been under contract to the Reign since July 1, and number (TBA) in your program tomorrow night against the Stockton Thunder.
“He’s one of those durable guys that can come in and have a little offensive side to him,” coach Jason Christie said. “He’s a competitor.”
Huxley will give the Reign six defensemen — three full pairs — for the first (and only) time since the opening weekend of the regular season. Pat Bowen isn’t ready to be rushed into game action and Philippe Seydoux still doesn’t have his P-1 (work) visa. Christie hopes both players will be ready to go by next week.