Alaska 2, Reign 1.

The Reign were noticeably closer to victory Friday than they were in a
6-3 loss to Alaska on Wednesday night. But as head coach Karl Taylor
noted afterwards, “there are no moral victories this time of year.”

The loss – though it was a close one – leaves the Reign two points
behind the Las Vegas Wranglers for the National Conference’s final
playoff berth, with four games left in the regular season.

Tim Kraus scored the lone goal, and Curtis Darling stopped 20 of 20
shots after Mike Zacharias allowed two goals in 18 minutes.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Alaska 6, Reign 3.

A third-period meltdown sent the Reign to just their third loss in the month of March.

Geoff Walker and David Walker scored first-period goals to give the Reign a 2-0 lead, but Alaska answered back with two more before the first intermission. The game stayed close through 40 minutes, but Alaska erupted for three devastating goals midway through the final period.

Gary Nunn created the first two, taking the puck nearly the length of the ice, winning a pair of battles at both ends with a burst of speed in the middle, and feeding Jason Ryznar to make it 3-2 at 9:05. He skated two-thirds the length of the ice and had Curtis Darling backpedaling when he shot it into the goalie’s chest at 12:01 of the third.

The Aces’ fifth goal was the toughest to swallow. With the Reign skating 5-on-4, Alaska cleared the puck down the ice and Darling left the crease to play it along the wall. He attempted to make an outlet pass back across the ice, where Curtis Fraser was skating straight into the puck – and scored into a wide-open net with 6:32 left in the period. (See tomorrow’s editions for Darling’s postgame comments.)

Sean O’Connor scored seconds after the power play expired, but Alaska netted an empty net goal to provide the final score.

With 68 points in the National Conference standings, the Reign (29-28-3-7) remained in eighth place, trailing both the Stockton Thunder and Las Vegas Wranglers by a point. The seven teams battling for the final six playoff positions are still separated by five points, thanks to a Utah Grizzlies victory over the Bakersfield Condors.

Karl Taylor postgame quotes.

Sorry for the delay, guys. Sometimes the internet gods like to shut down my blog server for maintenance overnight and we can’t get these things up as early as possible – but here’s what Karl Taylor had to say about last night’s game, picking up defenseman Luis Tremblay, and watching Brian Kilburg and Patrick Mullen leave.
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Bakersfield 6, Reign 3.

Jon Francisco scored twice, and Jon Rheault added a short-handed goal, but the Reign lost in regulation for just the second time in the last 30 days.

A string of second-period penalties seemed to untrack the Reign as Bakersfield scored five unanswered goals. More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin, and check out Friday’s paper for a longer look at new defensemen Colten Teubert and Patrick Mullen.

Teubert (who was paired with David Walker) didn’t figure much into the final outcome. He saw some penalty-kill time, but decided to save his first earth-shaking hit for this weekend at The Bank. Mullen was paired with Chad Starling and figured into the scoring in the third period – for Bakersfield. He effectively sealed off the slot on a 2-on-1 breakaway, but accidentally deflected Adam Naglich’s centering pass between Curtis Darling’s legs.

Darling stopped 27 of 32 before giving way to Mike Zacharias (8-for-8) for the final 11:15.

Reign 4, Alaska 3, shootout.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Reign won in a shootout Saturday, as Mike Zacharias came on in relief of Curtis Darling to get the win and get the Reign a much-needed two points.

It’s a formula that the Reign have employed three times in the last five games and it worked again to clinch victory against the Alaska Aces. Jon Rheault scored all three Reign goals in regulation, and Michael Pelech and Chad Starling scored in the shootout.

Darling stopped 25 of 28 shots over 65 minutes before giving way to Zacharias, who stopped four of the five shooters in the shootout. Mike Egener had two assists as the Reign converted both of their power-play opportunities.

The Reign took four of a possible six points in the Alaska series, turning the standings into a real rat race: seven teams are separated by seven points in the battle for six playoff spots. With the win, the Reign moved a point ahead of the Utah Grizzlies into the seventh and final playoff position.

The Reign are now 9-1-0-2 in their past 12 games.

Alaska 2, Reign 0.

The streak is over.

By losing 2-0 to the Alaska Aces on Friday night, the Reign failed to gain a point in the standings for the first time since Feb. 14, a span of 10 games. They also failed to take advantage of the Utah Grizzlies’ 5-2 victory over the Stockton Thunder, which would have allowed the Reign out of the Pacific Division cellar with a victory.

Instead, the Reign (26-26-3-6) are a point back of Stockton (27-24-2-6) and tied with Utah (27-25-2-5) at 61 points in the standings. By virtue of the Grizzlies’ better winning percentage (.517 to .500), they would get the National Conference’s final playoff berth if the season ended today.

Curtis Darling stopped 27 of 28 shots, allowing only a power-play goal to Eric Boguniecki at 13:22 of the third period. Darling had been pulled for an extra attacker when Alaska was credited with a goal with 1:47 left in the third period, when Reign defenseman Mike Egener hit Brock McBride as McBride attempted to score into the empty net.

Aces goaltender Scott Reid foiled all 24 shots by the Reign, who will attempt to pick up two points when the teams meet again at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.

Reign 5, Alaska 4, shootout.

Another lost lead, another shootout, and another Mike Zacharias special delivery – at least the Reign found a way to win on the road.

The Alaska Aces erased a 3-1 deficit with three third-period goals to take a 4-3 lead, before a goal by Michael Pelech with 1:35 left in regulation sent the game to overtime, and eventually a shootout. Once again, Karl Taylor pulled Curtis Darling in favor of Mike Zacharias and once again, Zacharias delivered. He stopped four of the five Aces shooters, allowing goals by Pelech and Chad Starling to hold up on the other end, with Starling’s proving to be the winner.

It was the fourth straight shootout for the Reign; they have won two and lost two. In three straight shootout performances, Zacharias has only allowed two goals.

Pelech had a huge game, collecting two assists in addition to his goals in regulation and the shootout. Mike Egener kicked off the scoring at 4:39 of the first period, Sean O’Connor made it 2-0 just 62 seconds later with his 12th goal of the season, and Egener’s ninth goal of the season with 34 seconds left in the second period made it 3-1.

Alaska began its comeback with a short-handed goal by Scott Burt at 2:20 of the third period, and even-strength goals by Merit Waldrop and Eric Boguniecki made it 4-3.

Jon Rheault picked up two more assists, giving him five (along with two goals) in four games since his return from the AHL. Geoff Walker and Andrew Martens also had assists for the Reign.

Egener has seven goals and seven assists (and 32 penalty minutes) in his last 12 games for the Reign. Ontario finished 2-for-6 on the power play and held Alaska to one goal in eight man-advantage shifts, but failed to convert a 43-second long 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period.

Here’s what the conference standings
look like; the Reign gained a valuable two points on the Utah
Grizzlies, who did not play last night. They’re now tied with Las Vegas
for the sixth/seventh spot, but Alaska’s point in the standings moves
them into a tie for fourth/fifth with Stockton.

The three-game series resumes at 8:15 p.m. Friday.

Las Vegas 4, Reign 3, shootout.

Another night, another shootout.

This time, Las Vegas got the only goal and walked away with the victory.

For the second night in a row, Karl Taylor switched goaltenders, pulling Curtis Darling in favor of Mike Zacharias for the skills competition. Zacharias stopped four of five shooters, but it wasn’t enough. Joel Gistedt, who replaced an injured Michael Ouzas in the third period, stopped all five Reign shooters to seal the victory.

Jon Rheault scored for the second straight night and Tim Kraus and Sean O’Connor also had goals for the Reign. Mick Lawrence, Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner scored for the Wranglers. Ned Lukacevic had the only goal in the shootout.

Darling stopped 28 of 31 in regulation.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Reign 4, Las Vegas 3, shootout.

Jon Rheault had a goal, an assist and a shootout goal as the Reign returned the favor for the Wranglers’ shootout win Friday.

They returned the favor in the penalty-minutes column, too. A night after totaling 48 PIM on 24 infractions, the two teams upped it to 56 minutes on Saturday.

But the most memorable call in another wild game was made by Reign coach Karl Taylor, who pulled starter Curtis Darling in favor of Mike Zacharias to start the shootout. All Zacharias did was stop all five shooters he faced, allowing Rheault’s shootout goal to stand up and give the Reign the win.

The Reign (25-25-3-5, 58 points) now lead Las Vegas (25-25-4-3, 57 points) by a point for the seventh and final playoff position in the National Conference standings. The rubber match is set for 5 p.m. tomorrow at The Bank.

Zacharias had not played since a 15-minute relief appearance on Feb. 14. Taylor called it a “very difficult” decision, one based on a “gut feeling.”

Geoff Walker and David Walker scored in regulation for the Reign, who for the second straight night couldn’t hold an early lead. Goals by Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner wiped out the Reign’s 2-0 lead by scoring 76 seconds apart in the third period.

Geoff Walker then scored with 1:39 left in regulation to give Ontario a 3-2 lead, but Vegas’ Jerry Pollastrone scored with 18.5 seconds left to send it to overtime.

Darling made 26 saves in regulation, but Zacharias was credited with the victory, his fifth of the season and first since Jan. 23.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

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.

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