Kellen Briggs suspended by the team.

Kellen Briggs has been suspended by the Reign, one day after the goalie was pulled halfway through Saturday night’s loss to the Alaska Aces.

No ECHL goalie has played more minutes (1529), made more saves (753) or absorbed more losses (16) than Briggs, who returned to the Reign in September after spending all of last season in Germany.

For the season, Briggs is 9-16-0-1 with a 3.65 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. In the team’s brief existence, only Curtis Darling (59) has appeared in more games between the pipes than Briggs (39).

The only other goalie currently on the roster is Beau Erickson, who relieved Briggs last night in just his fifth appearance this season. Erickson, a third-year pro, is 0-3 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

Typically a player is suspended by his team for the purpose of allowing him to sign in another league. I left messages for Briggs and Reign coach Karl Taylor hoping to shed light on the circumstances.

And then there were three.

The Reign traded goalie Mike Zacharias to the Idaho Steelheads for future considerations Tuesday, leaving only Kellen Briggs and Garrett Zemlak to compete for the vacant goalie spot alongside Kings prospect Martin Jones.

The 25-year-old Zacharias spent his first professional
season with the Reign last year, appearing in 24 games and finishing
the season 10-6-3 with an .894 save percentage and a goals-against
average of 3.28. Zacharias lost the No. 1 mantle to Curtis Darling early
in the season, saw more ice time late in the season and was
instrumental in the Reign’s late playoff push, but was on the bench
again to start the season-ending series in Las Vegas.

In Idaho, Zacharias figures to split time with Dallas Stars prospect Tyler Beskorowany. The Steelheads, a Stars affiliate, released a pair of goalies on Tuesday, Tim Haun and Michael-Lee Teslak. Their online training camp roster also included goalies Billy Blase and Doug Melvin as of Tuesday afternoon.

New role for Curtis Darling: coach.

Curtis Darling didn’t know where he would wind up after the 2009-10 season ended, but unless he got a call from the American Hockey League, it wasn’t going to be in a hockey crease somewhere.

Darling, who played in 57 games last season – the most ever for a Reign goalie – was done chasing the dream.

“That’s the thing with hockey,” he said. “It’s so much fun to play, and I had such a good year in Ontario. For me, anyway, it’s the ultimate golden carrot, where there’s always a little light at the end of the tunnel and you can get caught chasing the dream forever.

“There were ECHL offers, but the goal is to keep moving up. Most people can understand that – you want to keep moving up in life. It’s time to pursue other interests. That’s what it boiled down for me.”

Darling didn’t have to wait long for his next job.
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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
from
the list of 20 by extending a qualifying offer no later than July 1. Of
the
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
not
required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract
prior
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.
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Las Vegas 2, Reign 1.

The Reign’s second season of existence will not end in the playoffs.

Michael Pelech scored the lone goal and Curtis Darling stopped 32 of 34 shots, but the Reign were out of it even before the final horn sounded. That’s because the Victoria Salmon Kings – whom the Reign needed to lose tonight and tomorrow – demolished the Utah Grizzlies, 9-2.

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Update from Friday’s morning skate.

Today’s morning skate at the Orleans Arena was optional for the Reign, and 11 players took to the ice: Greg Hogeboom, Tim Kraus, Chad Starling, Andrew Martens, Mike Egener, Luis Tremblay, Dan Knapp, Peter Lenes, C.J. Stretch, Jordan Nolan, and Mike Zacharias.

Zacharias was the only goalie on the ice, which in most cases (barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances) means that he’ll be the backup in the game. Expect Curtis Darling – who turned in a good performance in a losing effort Thursday – to get his second straight start.

I caught up with Nolan and Karl Taylor to discuss Nolan’s pro debut; more on that in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Here are the elimination scenarios for tonight:

- If the Reign lose in regulation, or Victoria beats Utah (7 p.m. Pacific start time in British Columbia), the Reign are eliminated from playoff contention.
- If the Reign lose in overtime or a shootout, they need Victoria to lose in regulation in order to avoid elimination.
- If the Reign win (either in regulation or in overtime/shootout), they need Victoria to lose (either in regulation or overtime/shootout) to avoid elimination.

Taking all of tonight’s nine potential scenarios into account, the Reign are eliminated in six of them. They need help.

Tonight and tomorrow, get used to the phrase “Go Grizzlies!”

Las Vegas 5, Reign 2.

The Reign allowed three power-play goals and had to kill 10 penalties at all, turning a close contest into a futile game of catch-up in the third period.

The standings picture is bleak. Not only will the Reign have to win their final two games, but they’ll need the Utah Grizzlies to win both of their final two games in Victoria and at least one win must be in regulation.

Otherwise, the Reign will be the only team in an eight-team conference to miss the postseason.
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