Reign announce training camp invitations.

Forwards Kyle Reed and Dean Yakura, and goalie Dustin Carlson, have been invited to participate in training camp with the Reign on pro tryout contracts.

All three had brief stints last season with the Idaho Steelheads.

Reed and Carlson both completed four-year careers at Ohio State last season, then made their pro debuts with the Steelheads at the end of the season. Reed, a left wing, had one assist and a minus-3 rating in four games. Carlson went 0-3-1 with a 3.25 goals-against average and an .872 save percentage in five games. Neither appeared in a playoff game for Idaho.

Yakura, 26, split last season between the Pensacola Ice Wings of the Southern Professional Hockey League (20 games, five goals, nine points) and the Steelheads (five games, one goal). Prior to turning pro, Yakura spent four years with the illustrious American International College program in Bridgeport, CT.

Three other players were invited from the team’s open free agent tryout last Friday and Saturday: forward Andrew Monesi of Simi Valley, forward August Aiken of Whittier and goalie Darren Yount of Alta Loma.

Reign acquire Irwin for Lewadniuk.

The Reign announced a rare off-season trade Tuesday, sending forward Aaron Lewadniuk to the Idaho Steelheads for forward Geoff Irwin. The trade was completed before Karl Taylor accepted the assistant coaching position with the Chicago Wolves.

“We just felt a change in scenery for both guys was a good situation,” Taylor said. “That’s the way it kind of came together.”

Lewadniuk had received a qualifying offer from the Reign but hadn’t signed yet. Neither had Irwin.

“Usually when that (type of trade) occurs, there’s announcements that come shortly after,” Taylor said.

As a rookie in 2010-11, Irwin had 13 goals and 25 points in 57 games for the Steelheads. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Irwin is almost the same size as Lewadniuk (5-11, 175) but offers more quickness, Taylor said. Lewadniuk is a right-handed shot; Irwin shoots left.

Lewadniuk was a popular player, whose biggest knock as a rookie was his inconsistency. The Reign’s lone All-Star in January, Lewadniuk finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 69 games.

The 22-year-old said after the season that he had “no reasons” why he wouldn’t want to come back, but might have had a change of heart this summer.

The Steelheads don’t visit Ontario until Feb. 18.

Reign 3, Idaho 1.

If you just tuned in to Reign hockey — and judging by the announced crowd of 9,592, that’s quite a few of you — you’re probably wondering why this team has no chance of making the playoffs.

There are many reasons, most of which have been absent from the team’s play the last two weeks. The Reign will take their best five-game stretch of the season (four wins in their last five games) into today’s season finale after a punchless win over Idaho.

Beau Erickson made 31 saves, getting some help from his goal frame and some inaccurate Idaho shots, as well as goals by Michael Pelech, Jordan Morrison and Brett O’Malley.

Both teams were punchless, literally. No penalties were called until David Walker was whistled for hooking with 1:45 to play. It would have been only the fourth penalty-free game in ECHL history, the last coming in a March 30, 2003 game between the Augusta Lynx and Pee Dee Pride.

For the first time all season, all three forward lines are doing their jobs; all three defensive pairs seem to be communicating well and moving the puck up the ice; and the goaltenders are making up for the skaters’ mistakes — maybe the most critical component to sustaining success at this level.

“Since Christmastime, we’ve been .500, right around there, somewhere in that ballpark,” Erickson said. “I think we found our niche and ran out of time.”

That’s one theory. I’ve been collecting a few. Get all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:

Continue reading

Reign win, but are eliminated from the playoffs.

There will be hockey in Ontario again this year. Playoff hockey, however, will have to wait.

The Victoria Salmon Kings’ come-from-behind, 7-6 shootout win over the Stockton Thunder eliminated the Reign from the playoffs Friday, a couple hours after the Reign beat Idaho 3-2.

That the Reign were eliminated should come as little surprise. They had no margin for error beginning this week, needing to win their final six games and needing Victoria to lose their final seven.

The Salmon Kings didn’t cooperate. For the first time all season, they came back to win a game they trailed after two periods (5-3), pulling even with Stockton at 6-6 with 5:42 left in the third period.

If they win each of their last four games, the Reign can still match Victoria at 64 points in the standings should the Salmon Kings lose their final five games. But they cannot win more games than Victoria this season; the Reign would also lose the second tiebreaker having lost five of six head-to-head meetings.

All of which makes the game details somewhat moot. Beau Erickson won his second straight start, stopping 30 of 32 shots, and Jordan Morrison’s goal at 9:27 proved to be the game-winner.

Kyle Kraemer and Aaron Lewadniuk scored power-play goals and Alex Bourret had a pair of assists for the Reign. Lewadniuk re-entered the lineup after being held out Wednesday due to a back injury and switched places with Chaz Johnson, who was recalled to the AHL Thursday.

The Reign have another game in Idaho on Saturday night, before hosting three games next week to close the season.

Johnson gets the AHL call.

Justin Williams’ misfortune is Chaz Johnson’s good fortune … and the Reign’s misfortune.

Johnson was loaned to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs on Thursday, the first AHL call-up for Johnson this season. The Reign’s leading goal-scorer (22) scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday to prolong the Reign’s chase for the final Western Conference playoff berth. Wednesday’s effort also continued a torrid stretch for Johnson — he’s scored 12 of his goals in his last 21 games after scoring only 11 in his first 39.

Now it looks like the Reign will have to take on the Steelheads on Friday without Johnson.

That’s because the Monarchs were down a right wing when the Kings recalled Oscar Moller on Wednesday. Moller, who ranked second on Manchester in goals and points at the time of his recall, was summoned to the NHL after Kings right wing Justin Williams suffered a shoulder injury Monday against Calgary. Williams isn’t expected to play for at least another four weeks — possibly not until next season — and the Kings will need someone to fill in at right wing in the meantime.

On the surface, that leaves Johnson’s immediate availability in doubt.

Johnson is second on the Reign in penalty minutes (127), tied for second in points (36) and leads the team in shots on goal (156). He’s played 72 AHL games in his career, recording three goals, five assists and 82 penalty minutes, but none since the 2008-09 season.

Reign 4, Idaho 3.

The Reign aren’t dead yet.

Michael Pelech’s second goal of the game at 15:31 broke a 3-3 tie and lifted the Reign to a win over Idaho in a back-and-forth game in Boise. Combined with the Victoria Salmon Kings’ 2-1 loss to the Bakersfield Condors, the Reign remain mathematically alive for the final Western Conference playoff berth.

Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s first two goals, and Beau Erickson stopped 40 of 43 shots with Jase Weslosky (lower-body injury) being spelled by emergency backup Tony Davenport.

Johnson’s wrist shot gave the Reign a 1-0 lead at 6:10 of the first period. Kael Mouillierat and Aki Seitsonen answered to give Idaho a 2-1 lead before Johnson evened the score with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season with only 24 seconds left in the second period.

Kyle Kraemer found Pelech for the go-ahead goal at 5:14 of the third period, but the lead was short-lived. Dustin Friesen netted the Steelheads’ second power-play goal of the game at 7:12 to tie the game at 3. Idaho, which leads the ECHL in power-play efficiency, finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

But Pelech came through with his eighth goal of the season after Kraemer was stood up by an Idaho defender in the offensive zone, and Pelech raced to the net with the loose puck.

Dusty Carlson stopped 20 of 24 for the Steelheads, who host the Reign at 6:10 p.m. Friday.

Victoria, which has now lost two in a row after winning back-to-back games, visits Stockton at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Stockton is 7-3-0 this season against the Salmon Kings and has won three straight.

The Reign must win, and need the Salmon Kings to lose in regulation, in order to keep their microscopic playoff hopes alive.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign claimed goalie Shane Connelly off waivers from Utah, likely as insurance for Weslosky.

The former University of Wisconsin standout has played for five ECHL teams in two professional seasons. In five games for Utah, Connelly went 1-2-0 with a 4.22 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. In 74 pro games, all at the ECHL level, he is 25-30-7-4 with a 3.26 GAA, .890 save percentage and five shutouts.

Reign lose 6-3, plus more on Johnson, McEwan and Alex Morton.

The Reign lost in almost typical fashion. Take away the final three minutes of the first period, and they played one of their better games in recent memory – getting more scoring chances, more shots on goal, and more time in the offensive zone than Idaho. That doesn’t happen often.

Of course, you can’t take away those inexplicable three minutes of hockey in which Idaho scored three goals – twice on the power play and again at even strength.

“That’s kind of been the problem we’ve had all year, putting a 60-minute game together,” David Walker said. “Yeah, it’s one of our better games. We got blocked shots, put a lot of shots on net, did a lot of things we wanted to do at the start of the game. But when a team has a power play that good, you can’t give them opportunity after opportunity to do it.”

Walker went on to point out that playing well means little. Alaska is on its way to beating Victoria (the game is currently in the third period). Assuming the 4-2 score holds, the Reign would be left with 11 games in which to make up nine points on the seventh-place Salmon Kings to make the playoffs. So long as the Reign have at least five games to play, and Victoria keeps losing – a loss tonight would be its fourth straight – there’s a chance.

The Reign played without Chaz Johnson and James McEwan; tomorrow’s editions
of the Sun and Daily Bulletin will have plenty on the Reign’s reaction
to the ECHL suspensions. I didn’t have room for many details on the game, so here are a few:
Continue reading

McEwan, Johnson suspended, fined along with two Utah players.

Chaz Johnson and James McEwan will miss the Reign’s game tonight against the Idaho Steelheads. Both were suspended – Johnson for one game, McEwan for four – along with Simon Ferguson (five games) and Riley Emmerson (one) for their actions in Saturday’s game between the Reign and Utah Grizzlies.

All four players were fined an undisclosed amount by the league.

I have left a message with the ECHL, which does not usually comment on suspensions/fines, and will try to get comments from both Reign players tonight.

Considering the Reign only have 12 games left in the season, the loss of McEwan for one-third of those games is especially impactful. He will not be able to return until the Reign visit Bakersfield March 18. He and Johnson are arguably the team’s most physical players, an element that could be noticeably missing tonight against the Steelheads.

Idaho 4, Reign 3, SO.

The Reign played more in character with the team that entered the weekend on a 6-3-1 run than the team that lost 7-2 a night earlier.

It still wasn’t enough. Idaho pulled out the win in the skills competition (they went 2-for-3; the Reign went 0-for-4) and scored in the closing minutes of the first and third period to pull out the shootout victory.

Alex Bourret, Jordan Hill and Chaz Johnson scored, and Zacharias stopped 33 shots between regulation and overtime. David Walker missed the game with a lower-body injury, and forward Justin Taylor left midway through the game due to an undisclosed injury. Considering the Reign also played without regulars Shawn Collymore and Brett O’Malley, it was a gutty and well-deserved point in the standings.

But will it be enough? The Victoria Salmon Kings won the shootout, pulling nine points ahead of the Reign in the standings with 15 games to play.

The Stockton Thunder visit at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Idaho 7, Reign 2.

Here are the season totals for Aki Seitsonen, Geoff Irwin and Bear Trapp before Friday:

Seistonen: 8 goals, 11 assists, minus-10
Irwin: 9 goals, 5 assists, minus-3
Trapp: 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-1, 1 sweet name.

Not exactly eye-popping statistics. But put together, the trio were the primary beneficiaries of a lackadaisical effort by the Reign. Their totals Friday:

Seitsonen: 2 goals, 3 assists, plus-4
Irwin: 1 goal, 3 assists, plus-4
Trapp: 1 goal, 1 assist, plus-4, 1 fight.

The net result of their efforts was the Reign’s most lopsided loss since Jan. 21. Just when you thought they were turning a corner …

Here’s how Karl Taylor broke it down: “I thought we had a good first period. They got the late goal on a mental letdown there. We shouldn’t have given up that opportunity. It was 4-2 going into the third, we weren’t playing the way we needed to. They played better, but off the rush we gave them too many odd-man looks. In the third period it got away from us obviously.”

The Reign fell to eight points behind Victoria in the Western Conference standings with 16 games to go. Grabbing a playoff spot still isn’t impossible, but with any more games like Friday’s, they won’t deserve it.

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

A couple notes that didn’t make the paper:
Continue reading