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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Weslosky released, Morrison suspended.

The Reign took one step toward the awaited resolution of their unusual four-goalie situation Wednesday, releasing Jase Weslosky from his contract. Weslosky started the Reign’s preseason opener and made 28 saves in a 4-2 loss to the Las Vegas Wranglers. He was the backup to J-F Berube for the first regular-season game, but never saw the ice again.

Weslosky, 22, came to the Reign last March in the trade that sent Dusty Collins to the Florida Everblades. He went 2-1-0 in four appearances with a 2.00 GAA and a .943 save percentage before being sidelined by a lower-body injury. Weslosky started last season in Idaho, played 20 games for the Steelheads, and finished with a combined 9-7-3 record, 2.79 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Once healthy, Weslosky re-signed with the Reign in July, when Karl Taylor was still the coach. He was one of three goalies, along with J-F Berube and Dustin Carlson, who made the opening-day roster. Coach Jason Christie elected to keep all three on the roster after the Minnesota Wild assigned Darcy Kuemper to Ontario prior to the second game of the season. Carlson is still on the team but Christie stated his desire last week to find a new address for both Carlson and Weslosky; it seems as if Weslosky will get to find his next team on his own.

One other procedural move Wednesday: Jordan Morrison was suspended. The Reign will retain his ECHL rights while he heads off to Austria.

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Irate Erickson rails against Christie.

Beau Erickson thought his job was more safe than it actually was. That’s the ultimate reason for the candid war of words waged Wednesday by the former Reign goalie against coach Jason Christie.

From the coach’s standpoint, the story goes like this:

Christie plans on playing J-F Berube a lot. The Kings’ 2009 fourth-round draft pick is fully healthy after off-season hip surgery and is eager to begin his first pro season. When picking a backup goalie, a player who might not appear in half the games over the course of a season, saving money is a priority. This has become a universal truth in the NHL and in this regard the ECHL is sometimes no different.

Even by the standards of the ECHL, where no player earned more than $26,000 last season, Erickson didn’t make much during his 29-game stint with the Reign. But it’s safe to say he got a raise over the summer and was set to make more than either Jase Weslosky or Dustin Carlson, who have 29 games of pro experience between them. Erickson and Weslosky were both re-signed by Karl Taylor, while Carlson was brought in on a tryout by Christie.

So when I asked Christie what went into the decision to cut Erickson, here’s what he had to say:
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Beau Erickson is the lone cut as roster takes shape.

Wednesday was more a day of ecstasy than agony at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

When Reign coach Jason Christie submitted his first roster to the ECHL, Dustin Carlson, August Aiken and Jeff MacPhee were on it. All three were in training camp on tryout contracts, longshots to get an ECHL deal, but by virtue of some combination of luck and skill, they were among the chosen few. MacPhee called it “probably one of my proudest moments in hockey.”

The lone cut was Beau Erickson as head coach Jason Christie decided to keep three goalies for now — Kings prospect J-F Berube (who took part in his first practice), Jase Weslosky and Carlson.

Erickson, who appeared in 29 games for the Reign last season, didn’t have a bad camp. The 25-year-old allowed only one goal in 30 minutes in his only preseason action Sunday in Las Vegas. His glove was plenty sharp in practice, so what gave? More on that in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

A couple more notes:
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Las Vegas 4, Reign 2.

Bill Bagron and Kyle Kraemer scored the goals, and Jase Weslosky made 28 saves as the Reign dropped their first of two exhibition games against the Wranglers.

An unusually fast-tempo game — unusual, at least, by the more conservative standard set by Karl Taylor — worked in the Reign’s favor early. The goals by Bagron and Kraemer provided a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but Vegas shut the door with four unanswered goals.

Longtime Reign foe Ned Lukacevic got Vegas on the board at the 10:12 mark, putting back a long rebound from a bad angle under pressure after Weslosky stoned Chris Francis at the front of the net. The power-play goal shifted the momentum in favor of the Wranglers, who outshot Ontario 15-6 in the second period and 13-9 in the third.

Judd Blackwater’s goal with 3:15 left in the third period broke a 2-2 tie and Adam Miller provided the final score with 1:24 left. More game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

A few observations that won’t make the paper:
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Talking tough guys, and a few notes.

Tomorrow’s story will focus on Chris Cloud and Shayne Neigum, who are vying to become the Reign’s next enforcer. The job officially became up for grabs when James McEwan signed with the South Carolina Stingrays, and head coach Jason Christie said he might keep both Cloud and Neigum on the opening-day roster.

Here’s something you might not have known about Cloud:

A couple other notes from practice:

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Karl Taylor on Weslosky, Fredricks.

Here are the links to yesterday’s story about the signing of Jase Weslosky and Jason Fredricks: in the Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun. I had the chance to speak to Karl Taylor about both players this morning.

(Before getting into his quotes, however, a disclaimer: Taylor said not to read into the fact that Weslosky and Fredricks were the first signings announced. David Walker was the first signing announced prior to Year 1, Jon Francisco the following year, and Tim Kraus and Francisco the next. Still, yesterday’s announcement doesn’t mean that Fredricks is going to be named captain, that Weslosky is going to be the number-one goalie all season, or that better players aren’t still coming down the pipe.)

Upward and onward …
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Reign announce season-ending roster.

The Reign have announced their season-ending roster, a list of 20 players of whom eight can be tendered qualifying offers no later than July 1:

Jordan Hill, Jase Weslosky, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, Jason Fredricks, C.J. Stretch, Aaron Lewadniuk, Beau Erickson, Pat Bowen, Luke Beaverson, James McEwan, Brett O’Malley, Lane Caffaro, Craig Gaudet, Alex Bourret, Doug Krantz, Kellen Briggs, Chaz Johnson, David Walker and Matt Delahey.

Of the players who finished 2010-11 with the Reign, six are missing from the list:

• Forward Michael Pelech, who was assigned to the Reign by the Manchester Monarchs.

• Five veterans (as defined by the ECHL): Shawn Collymore, Shawn Germain, Jon Francisco, Chad Starling and Justin Taylor. Reign coach Karl Taylor has stated that he doesn’t send qualifying offers to veterans out of principle, since they can decline the offer and become a free agent without any possible compensation to the Reign.

Walker is a veteran. But the captain said that he expects to play in Europe next season [more on this in a future blog], so a qualifying offer sent to him would probably come with little consequence.

Also, note that teams are not required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract prior to July 1.

All the ECHL season-ending rosters can be found here.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Jase Weslosky?

The rundown on goalie Jase Weslosky:

2010-11 stats [career]: 9-7-3 record, 2.79 GAA, .916 save percentage.

Quote: “I definitely wouldn’t have an issue coming back at all.”

Pros: He only played four games in a Reign uniform, but Weslosky’s numbers (2-1-0, 2.00, .943) were relatively eye-popping. A fourth-round draft pick by the Islanders in 2006, it’s not unreasonable to think his skills are no fluke. Weslosky has the combination of size (listed at 6-2, 185) and mobility that often allows goalies to move up in the pro ranks.

Cons: There is a decent chance the Kings will send goalie prospect J-F Berube to Ontario next season (similarly to how they developed Jeff Zatkoff), leaving one opening in net. Regardless, Karl Taylor has at most two open goalie jobs. He might be able to find a better candidate than Weslosky, a second-year pro who passed a four-game audition.

Jase Weslosky post-season quotes.

ECHL goalies seem to have very little control over their hockey future. Sometimes that’s good, like when a rash of injuries hit an NHL team, and an ECHL goalie is able to move up the professional ranks more quickly than a skater would (see Briggs, Kellen, 2009).

Other times that’s bad. Weslosky had a good season by any statistical measure — 2.79 GAA, .916 save percentage — numbers that actually got better while wearing a Reign uniform. Yet he still played for three different teams in his first pro season. His second team, the Florida Everblades, never got him into an actual game.

So I could have asked Weslosky about his options for next year, but his guess is probably as good as yours. We looked more back than forward. Here’s what he had to say:
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