Berube in goal, plus more notes.

J-F Berube will get his first start since Dec. 26 tomorrow when the Reign host the Bakersfield Condors.

Berube’s last outing was a forgettable one – down to 13 skaters, he was the unlucky goalie as the Reign lost 5-0 to the Las Vegas Wranglers. Still short-handed, the Reign reached back the next four games and went 2-0-1, averaging 36 shots a game with goalie Chris Carrozzi in net.

That impressive feat will be the focus of tomorrow’s notebook in the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Berube has not faced the Condors since opening night, a 5-4 Reign loss.

A few more notes from practice:
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Alaska 3, Reign 1.

The Reign kicked off their three-game weekend series in Alaska on Friday down two men and two goals.

The Aces walked away with a 3-1 win despite being outshot 34-24. Kevin Estrada scored the Reign’s only goal at 7:41 of the third period. It was his first of the season, his first since the 2009-10 season in Germany, and his first in the ECHL since April 10, 2008 as a member of the Victoria Salmon Kings.

Per the Anchorage Daily News account, Estrada “walked out of the right corner, made it to the net and jammed a shot on [Alaska goalie Gerald]
Coleman, who had the paddle of his stick down along the ice. Estrada
jammed his own rebound through Coleman to cut Alaska’s lead to 2-1.”

That was as close as the Reign would get. Three minutes and one second later, Wes Goldie scored his 12th goal of the season to make it 3-1. Steve Ward and Gary Nunn scored power-play goals in the second period for the Aces (19-4-1-1), who finished 2-for-5 on the power play.

The Reign (12-10-1-1) are stuck in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, third in the Pacific Division, and failed to gain ground on the second-place Stockton Thunder, who lost 6-2 to Idaho earlier in the night.

Chris Carrozzi stopped 21 of 24 shots. J-F Berube made his first appearance (albeit on the bench) since sustaining a neck injury in practice last month.

Forward Matt Tassone (back) did not accompany the Reign on the trip. Shayne Neigum skated at forward, giving the Reign nine forwards and five defensemen. The 14 skaters are two below the ECHL maximum.

Emptying out the notebook.

It’s been an unusually busy week in hockey, both locally and nationally, keeping this reporter on his toes a tad more.

Then Jason Christie grabbed a linesman’s shirt Sunday night.

There was no word out of the ECHL offices Monday whether or not Christie will face supplementary discipline. Expect that decision to be handed down tomorrow or Wednesday. The Reign visit the Las Vegas Wranglers on Thursday.

One bright spot in the Reign’s 2-0 loss Sunday was the continued progression of goalie Chris Carrozzi, who will be the focus of tomorrow’s notebook on Page 2 of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. In short, dude’s had a rough start to the season. Somewhat reminiscent of Beau Erickson last year.

Here are a few things that won’t make the notebook (but are still newsworthy):
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And tomorrow’s starting goalie will be …

… Chris Carrozzi.

Who, you might ask?

Carrozzi is a Winnipeg Jets prospect and a 2008 sixth-round draft pick (154th overall) of the former Atlanta Thrashers. He was assigned to the Colorado Eagles to start the season but wasn’t getting much playing time, appearing in only one of the Eagles’ first 17 games. Coincidentally, that game was a 6-2 victory by the Reign in Colorado on Nov. 5.

Reign coach Jason Christie said that the Jets will assign Carrozzi to Ontario and Dustin Carlson will back him up against the Stockton Thunder. Jean-Francois Berube remains sidelined by an upper-body injury and did not practice Tuesday; Christie said that Berube will resume skating tomorrow.

Not much stands out about Carrozzi on the surface. The 21-year-old was stuck with a 6.00 goals-against average in his only appearance this season. Last season, he backstopped 47 games for the Gwinnett Gladiators, going 16-20-2-4 with a 3.23 GAA, which ranked 21st in the league.

But considering the Gladiators missed the playoffs altogether, Carrozzi’s 2010-11 numbers — which included two shutouts — aren’t awful. His junior career with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors culminated with OHL Goaltender of the Year Honors in 2009-10, after a 19-10-5/2.36/.916 season. Carrozzi signed his entry-level contract with the Thrashers after that season.

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Darcy Kuemper is promoted, and it could last a while.

The Minnesota Wild have re-assigned Darcy Kuemper to the Houston Aeros, their American Hockey League affiliate. It’s the second promotion for the rookie goalie this season, who spent one weekend with the NHL club but did not play.

Kuemper is leading the ECHL in goals-against average (1.74) and save percentage (.941) while going 7-1-0, accounting for all but two of the Reign’s nine wins.

While his first promotion was brief, Kuemper could be up for a while longer this time. According to a report on the Finnish website iltalehti.fi, the Aeros are losing their backup goalie, Dennis Endras, to HIFK of the Finnish League. Endras had been backing up Matt Hackett. The Aeros are planning to issue an official release tomorrow.

The Reign host the Stockton Thunder on Wednesday. Goalies Jean-Francois Berube and Dustin Carlson remain on the active roster, though Berube missed two games against the Bakersfield Condors over the weekend with an “upper-body injury.” The injury is not believed to be a concussion, and coach Jason Christie said that Berube is day-to-day.

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

Reign 2, Bakersfield 1.

Matt Tassone and Geoff Irwin scored the goals and Darcy Kuemper was Darcy Kuemper, making the easy saves look easy and the hard saves look easy while barely missing out on a shutout. He stopped 35 of 36.

Kuemper and the Reign should be glad they survived a night in which they were short-handed nine times, including all of the final 1:58. Bakersfield cashed in during a 6-on-3 shift when Justin Pender scored with 1:02 left but that was it for the Condors, who have lost eight in a row.

Check out the game story in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Bulletin. A few notes that won’t make the print edition:
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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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Colorado 4, Reign 3, OT.

Here’s how a 3-1 lead turns into a 4-3 overtime loss:

1. A short pass goes off a Reign stick and onto a Colorado stick. Shot, goal.
2. A hard pass goes off a Reign skate (possibly a body) and into the net.
3. An ill-timed line change results in an odd-man rush the other way for Colorado. A long, high shot — the Eagles’ only shot of overtime — goes into the top of the net.

Plenty of bad luck was involved in the final outcome, but it’s easier to say the Reign squandered a point Saturday than gained one. Leading 3-1 going into the third period, Colorado converted back-to-back power plays on a pair of good bounces to tie the game at 3. Luck aside, the same stifling defense that the Reign used in the first two periods (and in Friday’s win over Stockton) was conspicuously absent from the third period Saturday.

“We’re not stepping into the shot. Sticks weren’t into the lanes,” head coach Jason Christie said when talking about the overtime goal, but he may as well have been discussing the third period too.

Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. The Reign will visit the scrappy first-year ECHL franchise Friday and Saturday in Colorado, their first back-to-back road games of the season.

Some notes and observations:
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New defenseman (#16) and other notes.

Chris Huxley was the co-captain at Harvard University last year. He played on the Crimson’s top defensive pair with a recent NHL draft pick, Danny Biega. He once was presented an academic/athletic excellence award (the John Carlton Memorial Award) by former Boston Bruin Johnny Bucyk.

Now, he’s just a number. Number 16 in the line of defensemen who have been under contract to the Reign since July 1, and number (TBA) in your program tomorrow night against the Stockton Thunder.

“He’s one of those durable guys that can come in and have a little offensive side to him,” coach Jason Christie said. “He’s a competitor.”

Huxley will give the Reign six defensemen — three full pairs — for the first (and only) time since the opening weekend of the regular season. Pat Bowen isn’t ready to be rushed into game action and Philippe Seydoux still doesn’t have his P-1 (work) visa. Christie hopes both players will be ready to go by next week.

A few more notes:
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Berube on Berube; other notes.

J-F Berube’s stats through his first two games with the Reign are, to put it bluntly, pretty bad: 0-2-0, a 4.55 goals-against average, and an .830 save percentage. The Kings’ fourth-round draft pick (2009) figures to get another chance at his first ECHL win this weekend against either Stockton on Friday or Colorado on Saturday.

The good news, from Berube’s perspective, is that he’s getting better with each start.

“I’m improving and I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m not too worried about my performances. There’s a lot of positive things and some negative that I have to work on. I have to build on the positive ones. I feel confident. It’s only two games.”

The 21-year-old said that the final score Saturday in Las Vegas, 4-1 in favor of the Wranglers, “doesn’t even tell my performance. I was able to see the puck a lot better.”

Two Vegas goals, he said, came as a result of shots from the point. Berube also allowed a two goals (out of five total) from beyond the faceoff circles during his opening-night loss to the Bakersfield Condors. He admits that he’s typically stronger handling shots from closer range than at a distance — which is a bit counter-intuitive — but part of the problem has been Berube’s ability to deal with traffic in front of him.

At a lanky 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, he’s not going to manhandle too many power forwards wandering through his crease, even ECHL power forwards. Ron Hextall isn’t the Kings’ minor-league goalie instructor but Kim Dillabaugh is. Dillabaugh will be in town starting tomorrow, and improving Berube’s ability to see pucks in traffic should be near the top of the to-do list.

Still, there’s a greater responsibility on the Reign defensemen to clear opponents out of the way so Berube can see the puck better, and block as many shots as possible from far range.

“When you’re away from the game and there’s traffic in front you have to battle a little more,” he said. “That was just one of the little things I have to work on this week and the upcoming week, to stop those pucks that came in.”

A few more notes:
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