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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Voting open for ECHL “Silver Skater” team.

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.

Irwin suspended four games, Couture one.

The Reign will be without two-thirds of their top line when they return to the ice next Monday in Las Vegas.

Left wing Geoff Irwin was suspended four games, and Derek Couture one, by the ECHL on Tuesday for their actions Sunday in Alaska.

Aces defenseman Brandon Gentile slew-footed Couture at 14:30 of the second period of Sunday’s game, moments after Francois Brisebois scored the Reign’s first goal of the game. That set off a massive brawl with Couture and Gentile in the middle. You can see how it started at the 2:27 mark of this video:

At the 3:08 mark, Couture appears to be the second man in on a fight between Gentile and Reign defenseman Chris Huxley. Couture was given a double game misconduct for his role in the altercation.

Irwin was suspended for an illegal hit to the head; his only penalty in the game was a second-period elbowing minor. “He went through the body clean and he obviously came up high on his follow-through on the hit,” Reign coach Jason Christie said. “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. It’s understandable. He came up a little too high. You don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy. ”

Kyle Kraemer, who fetched a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking a hard hit from Alaska’s Kane Lafranchise at the end of the second period, was fined an undisclosed amount along with Irwin and Couture.

Stockton 3, Reign 2.

Kevin Baker knocked in the game-winning goal off a rebound at 11:45 of the third period, and Olivier Roy’s 40 saves buried the Reign in a game they dominated for the better part of 60 minutes.

Stockton scored twice in the third period to erase a 2-1 Reign lead. Jean-Francois Berube made 24 saves in his first start since recording a shutout last Saturday in Alaska. He couldn’t be blamed for the defensive-zone giveaway that led to Milan Kytnar’s game-tying goal, nor the lack of a backcheck that gave Baker ample time and space on the doorstep to put back Cameron Abney’s shot and break the 2-2 deadlock.

Geoff Irwin and Derek Couture scored the Reign’s only goals, both on 5-on-3 power plays. That’s about what it took to beat Roy, who raised both arms and jumped (a little) after the final horn sounded. It’s only November, but he played well enough to earn it. Talking to Dylan Yeo after the game, the biggest disappointment for the Reign was not cashing in on their many chances.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes:

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Gabriel Levesque update.

Stockton Thunder center Gabriel Levesque remained in a hospital Thursday morning, and could face season-ending hip surgery after being hit into the boards in the Reign’s 4-2 win Wednesday.

Thunder coach Matt Thomas said that “they’re still trying to figure out exactly the overall seriousness of it but the early diagnosis doesn’t look promising.” Levesque is expected to be released sometime today and then will meet with his team doctor to determine if surgery is necessary.

“The good thing is it’s not something that required emergency surgery,” Thomas said. “That’s a positive thing, in terms of the ability to heal from it.”

Levesque left Citizens Business Bank Arena on a gurney, lying on his left side — not his back –¬†and looking dazed, if not unconscious. Thomas said he didn’t know if Levesque lost consciousness, only that the 21-year-old center “was in a lot of pain. Serious pain.”

Thomas also said that a video review showed that the initial high-stick that clipped Levesque in the face came from Reign left wing Geoff Irwin, not that of right wing Derek Couture, who received a high-sticking penalty on the play. Couture delivered the hard hit immediately after Levesque was high-sticked and let go of the puck.

Asked if it was a clean hit, Thomas said: “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think it was just because it was more of a — it wasn’t a body check. It was like he pushed him. Is it a dirty hit? I don’t know. It’s a push. I’m sure Couture didn’t want to hurt him, but Levesque was in a bad spot when he got pushed.”

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, Stockton 2.

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.

J-F Berube gets the start tomorrow.

Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for more. Here’s the official scoresheet.

Yeo named captain; Couture, Irwin alternates.

Defenseman Dylan Yeo was named the third captain of the Reign today, and forwards Derek Couture and Geoff Irwin will wear the alternate captain’s “A”s tonight when the season opens against the Bakersfield Condors.

Yeo, 25, last captained the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in 2006-07, a team that included future NHLers Karl Alzner, Ryan White, Alex Plante and Brodie Dupont, and current Kings prospects Martin Jones and Brandon Kozun. Among his unique duties in Calgary: Singing the national anthem.

The defenseman has never been a captain in his four professional seasons. Christie said that a team ballot was used to choose the captain and both alternates.

The head coach also said that Couture, a seventh-year pro, will be named a permanent alternate, while Irwin’s “A” could be rotated as players are added to the team. Irwin, 26, was only a rookie last year, but “he’s the type of hard-working guy that we like,” Christie said.

Jon Francisco (2008-09, 2009-10) and David Walker (2010-11) were the previous captains.

More from Yeo after tonight’s game.

Reign sign ex-Salmon King Couture.

Derek Couture, a gritty power forward who split last season between the AHL and the Victoria Salmon Kings, is the 10th player announced to have signed with the Reign.

The 6-foot-1 right wing turned pro in 2005-06, spending the majority of his time in the AHL. Couture, 27, has also played 10 games in the Austrian League and 50 games in the ECHL for Victoria, Charlotte and Elmira.

“He’s a big kid who is very aggressive in his style of play at our level,” said Karl Taylor, who signed Couture before resigning to take an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Wolves. “He’s been in the American League most of the time. He should be a top-3 forward, in my opinion, a real strong power forward. He’s not afraid to stick up for himself or his teammates. He’s a quiet guy but he plays a big game, a big signing who can really help the team out.”

Couture had 19 points (eight goals, 11 points) in 25 games for Victoria last season, along with 76 penalty minutes. In four ECHL playoff games, he had one goal and one assist. Playing for the Connecticut Whale, Couture had six goals and 10 points in 20 regular-season games along with one goal and one assist in six playoff games.

“He’s big, strong, skates well, likes to run people over. He’s going to be a fun player to watch. Someone Jason (Christie, the new head coach) can rely on for leadership. …¬†Jason should be happy hopefully. Obviously Jason will have decisions on who he keeps.”

So far, the following players have been announced:

Forwards (4): Couture, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch.

Defensemen (4): Chad Starling, Pat Bowen, Jason Fredricks, Adrian Van de Mosselaer.

Goalies (2): Jase Weslosky, Beau Erickson.

The Reign acquired the negotiating rights to forward Geoff Irwin from the Idaho Steelheads for forward Aaron Lewadniuk. A new contract for Irwin hasn’t been announced yet, but he’s expected to sign.