With their playoff hopes all but gone, and the ECHL trade deadline offering one last chance to re-shape the roster, the Reign made two trades before noon Friday.
The Reign’s 3-2 deficit in third period wasn’t too much to overcome on Wednesday, and they can only hope their six-point deficit in the standings isn’t too large, either.
Clearly, the Reign are a team in the mood for comebacks. Jordan Morrison’s goal with 4:50 left in the third period, and an overtime goal by Kyle Kraemer, lifted them to a 4-3 win over Idaho before an announced crowd of 6,644 at CBBA. Mike Zacharias (10-11-3-3) stopped 36 of 39 shots to win his second straight start.
Kraemer also scored a power-play goal in the first period and Justin Taylor scored at 7:25 of the second to give the Reign a 2-0 lead. Idaho went ahead on unanswered goals by Cody Purves, Mark Derlago and Junior Lessard.
The Reign went 2-for-3 on the power play and also killed off a pair of third-period power plays after Purves scored on the Steelheads’ first man-advantage shift of the game.
The Victoria Salmon Kings (24-27-1-2, 51 points) still hold the seventh and final playoff position in the Western Conference, six points ahead of the Reign (20-30-2-3, 45 points). The Salmon Kings have one game in hand, but the pressure is on them now to beat Utah in their next game Friday.
A few more notes:
David Walker’s backdoor goal 2:01 into overtime lifted the Reign to a victory in a strange game at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Shawn Collymore had the Reign’s other goal – at least, he was credited with the goal by the official scorer – and Beau Erickson had some highlight-reel saves in a solid 29-save performance.
Even the one goal he allowed, to Fraser Clair at 12:22 of the third period, was controversial.
As Erickson described it: “It was a 4-on-2 coming my way. I think Freddy (Jason Fredricks) went down to block it. It went off him and it came to me, bouncing, kind of like the play before. It bounced off and it went off my pad. As I was watching, the net looked like it was off. It went inside the net. They called it a goal.”
The officials had a lengthy discussion at the scorer’s table, and a conference with the off-ice official standing behind the goal, but there wasn’t enough to change the initial ruling of a good goal.
Some more oddities from tonight’s game:
All good things – like winning streaks and interconference series – must come to an end.
Clearly tired at the end of their third game in three nights, and fourth in five days, the Reign sputtered to a 3-1 loss in their series finale against Elmira. The Reign started strong but managed just four shots in the third period and couldn’t convert on the power play after the first period.
The Jackals halted their four-game losing streak on the strength of two goals by Jason Bailey and another by Patrick Coulombe, who potted the game-winner during a 4-on-3 power play with 1:43 left in the third period. Bailey’s goal into an empty net with 3.2 seconds left completed the scoring.
Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s only goal by deflecting a point shot by David Walker past TImo Pielmeier at 8:58 of the first period.
Mike Zacharias stopped 32 in one of those puzzling games for a goalie. Two fairly straightforward shots, by Bailey in the first period and Coulombe in the third, got past him. The rest of the game, facing one breakaway after another, he was perfect – strong positionally and when he needed to move laterally in the crease.
More details in tomorrow’s editions.
The Reign managed to take three of a possible six points from the Grizzlies, the first-place team in the other (Mountain) Division, on the strength of a Pat Bowen point shot that got through at 2:03 of overtime.
The Mountain trip isn’t over yet — its fourth and final game awaits tomorrow night against the Idaho Steelheads — but it’s off to a decent 1-1-1 start. The win allowed the Reign (14-26-1-2) to keep pace with the Victoria Salmon Kings (18-24-1-2) and remain eight points out of the seventh and final Western Conference playoff position with two games in hand.
And in the midst of an impossibly lousy season at home, it’s no small feat that the Reign are now 10-11-1-1 on the road. They can pull to .500 away from CBBA (ignoring the OT/SO columns) with a win in Boise.
Hugo Carpentier’s goal at 2:09 of overtime completed the Grizzlies’ comeback from a 2-0 deficit, giving the Reign a valuable point in the standings but wasting a golden opportunity for a win on the road.
For the first time since December, the Reign weren’t outshot. Beau Erickson stopped 36 of 39 for the Reign, and Andrew Engelage stopped 37 of 39 for the Grizzlies. The Reign benefited from a second period that saw Utah take 10 penalties, resulting in six power plays and a 20-10 shots advantage.
All Ontario had to show for that second-period opportunity was a 5-on-3 power-play goal by Dusty Collins at 5:32, and an even-strength marker by Shawn Collymore at 11:43. Clearly, Lane Caffaro’s absence was felt. His ability to get shots through to the net could have made a noticeable difference in a close, power-play heavy game like this.
Utah began its comeback just 27 seconds after Collymore’s goal, when a long shot by Marcus Carroll beat a screened Erickson. With 3:57 left in the third period, Matt Clarke tied the game at 2 with his wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
It stayed tied until Carpentier’s goal, one second after a penalty to Reign defenseman Jason Fredricks expired. Though Fredricks could do little to prevent the goal as he exited the penalty box, the Reign officially finished 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
The standings point put a dent in the gap between Ontario and seventh-place Victoria in the Western Conference standings, bringing the Reign eight points back with one game in hand.
The Reign and Grizzlies play again tonight.
Lane Caffaro became the third Reign player to leave for Europe this month on Friday, when the defenseman was suspended by the team and joined the Hannover Indians of the German Bundesliga.
According to the website haz.de, Caffaro has arrived in Hannover but the team hasn’t officially affirmed his transfer yet, as his contract status is still in limbo. Because the Reign suspended him, however, it seems unlikely that there is any scenario in which he comes back.
Caffaro played a valuable role on the Reign’s blue line this season as the primary point man on the power play. The 26-year-old had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 36 games since arriving in a trade with the Idaho Steelheads. Tonight’s game against the Utah Grizzlies will be the Reign’s first without Caffaro since October.
The Reign will be getting defenseman Jordan Hill, and center Dusty Collins, for tonight’s game after each was cut by his AHL team this week. However, Hill isn’t the same kind of defenseman as Caffaro — more of a gritty two-way player than an offensive specialist — and it will be interesting to see what kind of changes Karl Taylor makes without Caffaro.
Dusty Collins’ latest stay in the American Hockey League was a brief one.
The center was released from his contract with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on Thursday and he will return to the Reign, likely in time for a three-game series at Utah starting Friday.
Collins had a goal, 12 penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating in three games with the Moose. He has seven goals and 15 points in 28 games with the Reign this season
The Reign, and the rest of the ECHL, were off the ice today. It’s written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association that teams don’t practice during the All-Star Break. With no practice comes no updates, but here are a couple tidbits to pass along:
• Aaron Lewadniuk told me after last night’s game that he is leaving for Bakersfield today. Karl Taylor told me about a month ago that, because Ontario is relatively close to Bakersfield, it was possible that the ECHL would turn to the Reign for any injury replacements simply because it’s easier to get players to the game on short notice. The game is two days away and Lewadniuk, to my knowledge, is still the only Reign player heading north.
• Dusty Collins didn’t play for the Manitoba Moose yesterday, the first time he’s been scratched since being recalled to the AHL a week ago. His name hasn’t popped up on the transactions wire yet, but the player whose roster spot he took – Sergei Shirokov – was just returned to Manitoba by the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. But … the Canucks also recalled a defenseman from Manitoba, Lee Sweatt. No clear signals on this front.
• I spoke to Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall today about the Reign and the Manchester Monarchs. No Earth-shattering news to relay, but Hextall did say that he considered assigning a top-six-type forward (he didn’t give a name) from Manchester to Ontario at one point earlier this season when that player was struggling. That player turned his season around, however, and stayed in Manchester.
• 3:30 p.m. update: The Monarchs released defenseman Jordan Hill, who had been on loan from the Reign since December. Manchester doesn’t play a game until Wednesday, while the Reign don’t play until Friday in Utah. For now, pencil Hill in for the road trip – but a lot can happen in four days. Hill had one assist, 19 penalty minutes, and a minus-1 rating in 14 games with the Reign. He had one assist and 15 penalty minutes in 10 games for Manchester.
• 4 p.m. update: Hill is indeed flying in to Ontario today.
The Kings are expected to assign Manchester Monarchs forward Andrei Loktionov to the Reign for the purpose of bringing him to Southern California in advance of their game Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Neither the Kings nor the Reign have made an official announcement yet, and it’s doubtful that Loktionov will have time to suit up for the Reign’s game tonight against the Bakersfield Condors.
Even if he does play tonight, Loktionov won’t be in Ontario long. If Kings forward Wayne Simmonds, who injured his knee Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, is healthy enough to play Thursday, Loktionov is expected to be sent back to Manchester. If Simmonds can’t play, then Loktionov will be added to the Kings’ roster. Simmonds participated in a full practice Wednesday and is “a possibility,” according to Kings coach Terry Murray.
Here’s what we know: Beau Erickson will be the starter in goal tonight against Bakersfield, defenseman Luke Beaverson will return to the Reign’s lineup for the first time since Dec. 17, and defenseman Doug Krantz will be scratched from the lineup.