The Reign started off with admirable energy, slowed down a bit, rediscovered their early-game tempo in the third period but ultimately found themselves in a familiar place.
They were outshot (29-19), outscored on the power play (3 to 2), outscored short-handed (1 to 0, despite some halfway decent chances) and most importantly, outscored 5-3 on the final scoreboard. It was their fifth straight loss and 14th in 16 home games this season.
The scoresheet also revealed and obscured some positives. The Reign weren’t afraid to fight, from Chaz Johnson and James McEwan on down to Aaron Lewadniuk and little Alex Bourret. All landed enough punches – Johnson landed one cleanly on Matt Sorteberg with his sweater pulled over his head, no less – to earn either a win or a draw.
The power play did a better job generating scoring chances, and its 50 percent conversion rate is usually enough on most nights. The Reign’s 14 total shots – while matching a season low – didn’t take into account several shots that just missed the net. C.J. Stretch clanged one off the goal frame in his first game in a month.
For all their plusses, the Reign still couldn’t kill a penalty against Utah. That seemed to be the main problem, and I discussed it in depth with a couple of the guys – more in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.
Lastly, it looks inevitable that Jeff Corey is going back to Europe. I don’t know much other than that Corey has an offer and there’s quite a bit of money behind it; the Reign don’t want to lose two of their key players (Corey and Kellen Briggs) in a week and are trying to retain Corey; and because there’s no contract in place at the moment, Corey is still in the area.
The Reign can try to get compensation from an overseas club if they lose Corey (I’m told that they did receive some compensation for Briggs), but they’d rather keep a player who is their leading scorer and among their best penalty killers. There’s also the inevitable perception that players are “jumping ship” with the team entrenched in last place, but I’ve been told that’s not the case. It’s more about the money, and ECHL players don’t make much.
Corey played for Freiburg of the second-tier German Bundesliga last season and spent all of 2007-08 in Denmark. He went down with a lower-body injury Dec. 28 in Victoria and hasn’t played in the last five games, but still leads the team in goals (11), points (24), power-play assists (9), game-winning goals (2) and shots (90).