Idaho 6, Reign 4.

No more than an hour has passed since the end of the Reign’s 2010-11 season, and already the dasher-board advertisements have been removed from CBBA, the benches have been broken down, and the sold-out seats sit empty.

If six months of hockey just ended within the last hour here, you could have fooled me.

Indeed, the Reign ushered in their summer break with a 6-4 loss that didn’t lend itself to any game-as-microcosm-of-season metaphors.

They started hot, leading 2-0 after three minutes, 3-1 after 11 minutes, and 3-2 after 20. Maybe the ice was tilted east tonight, because Idaho scored three goals in 8:24 to start the second period, taking a 5-3 lead and chasing starting goalie Beau Erickson (15 saves). Jase Weslosky performed very well in relief, stopping 19 of 20 shots, but it was too late. The scoring chances were close to even in the third period, but the Reign just didn’t convert as many as their opponent.

Michael Pelech, Justin Taylor, Alex Bourret and C.J. Stretch scored the goals. Stretch had an assist and a (very quick) fight, too, recording a rare Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

I’ll save a recap of the season, and all its foibles, for the Reign’s usual perch on page 2 of Tuesday’s sports section. There will be an end-of-season team banquet tomorrow, before the players meet with Karl Taylor on Monday for one last meeting and to gather their stuff.

Here are some end-of-the season notes:
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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:

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Notes from practice.

Considering the Reign have the ECHL’s worst record, have been eliminated from the playoffs, and don’t have any recent college or CHL graduates in on tryout contracts, maintaining the current roster and system might seem like the most radical course of action for the final three games of the season.

Yet that’s exactly what Karl Taylor is planning to do.

“You think about it, like ‘gee, I always wanted to try this, or experiment,’ but no. We’re not trying to do anything,” Taylor said after a brisk practice Tuesday in advance of tomorrow’s game against Bakersfield. ”We played very well last weekend, executed well, showed a lot of character. We need to do that at home this weekend and reward our fans.”

The Reign wound up as a decent road team this season — 34 points (15-17-2-2) in 36 games — after taking two of three in Idaho last week. If the Reign won at the same rate at home as they did on the road, they would finish with 68 points this season. Considering that Victoria has 66 points with three games left on the schedule, that might be enough to make the playoffs. Certainly it would have given the Reign a shot.

Unfortunately, they lost 12 of 13 at home to start the season, which was ultimately the team’s downfall.

“I’ve seen us lose more at home than we would like to show them (the fans),” Taylor said.

Veteran defensemen Shawn Germain and David Walker had some strong thoughts on that topic. Both have talked about calling it a career after this season. Their approach to what could be the final week of their pro careers will be the focus of tomorrow’s story in the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

(Spoiler alert: Neither player has committed to retiring. Germain called his own bluff this year; Walker said he’s going to make up his mind for good after undergoing a pair of surgeries in the offseason.)

A few more notes:

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Brief notes from practice.

You would never know by watching the Reign practice that their season has been reduced to a prayer. The effort and the tempo were there – only a few players were missing.

Shawn Germain (maintenance), Jase Weslosky (lower body) and Aaron Lewadniuk (back) sat this one out. Weslosky was scheduled to be evaluated later today to determine his status for the upcoming road trip to Boise. Lewadniuk is day-to-day and seems more likely to go on the trip. More from him in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

For my money, the most impressive sight in practice was that of Chad Starling. The veteran defenseman still hasn’t been cleared for contact or game play, as was his original hope, but he hasn’t given up on this season either. Unlike veteran teammates David Walker and Jon Francisco, Starling has given no indication that this season will be his last. But for a 30-year-old who hasn’t played a game since November, and underwent two surgeries in January, it would certainly be an accomplishment if he were to appear in a game before the season ends.

There hasn’t been any activity on the transactions wire, though former Reign center Dusty Collins saw his time in an Oklahoma City Barons jersey end after one game. He was released from his PTO today and is presumably on his way back to Florida.

Bakersfield 3, Reign 1.

That sound coming from Bakersfield was the nail being hammered just a bit deeper into the Reign’s coffin.

Tonight’s loss to the Condors, combined with the Victoria Salmon Kings’ 5-2 win over the Utah Grizzlies, leaves the Reign (23-36-2-4, 52 points) nine points behind the Salmon Kings (29-32-1-2) for the final Western Conference playoff berth with seven games left in the regular season.

The Reign needed help to harbor any optimism about the playoffs — and got none from a Victoria team that has suddenly won two straight. They also got no help from a red-hot Condors squad that won its seventh straight game, and its 10th in 13 games against the Reign this season.

James McEwan scored the Reign’s only goal on a re-direction of a Luke Beaverson shot at 13:30 of the second period. Bobby Robins, Stephane Goulet and Phil Paquet scored the Bakersfield goals as Jase Weslosky stopped 35 of 38 shots. According to the unofficial stat sheet, the Reign were outshot 38-24.

After Friday’s turn of events it’s possible to see the end of the road: The Reign could be eliminated as early as next Wednesday, when they begin a three-game series in Idaho and the Salmon Kings visit Bakersfield.

The Reign play the Condors again at 7 p.m. Saturday. Utah and Victoria play again Saturday, too.

Reign 4, Las Vegas 2.

Needing a win to keep their diminishing playoff hopes alive, the Reign responded with their second win this week against the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Jase Weslosky turned in another strong performance, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and getting goals from Aaron Lewdniuk, Kyle Kraemer, Shawn Germain and Justin Taylor – the latter coming into an empty net with 44 seconds remaining.

The Reign are now seven points behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings, who won on Wednesday and have played one fewer game (64 to 63). That leaves the Reign with eight games to make up seven or more points in the standings.

At least now they have some semblance of momentum on their side. The response to a 1-0, first-period deficit was rather impressive; the Reign scored three unanswered goals to start the second period and, ultimately, put the game away. Weslosky turned aside all nine shots he faced in the third to preserve the win.

Brett O’Malley had two assists, while Lewadniuk, Taylor and Jordan Morrison had one helper each.

Not that it will be needed for any playoff tiebreakers, but the win allowed the Reign to win the head-to-head season series with the Wranglers, five games to four. Las Vegas is the only Western Conference team against whom the Reign have a winning record.

Notes from an optional practice. Update.

Practice was optional today, but there was quite a crowd on hand to watch. Some local elementary-school children sat in the CBBA stands, and took a brief tour of the building, giving Shawn Germain some valuable practice should he ever aspire to be a field trip coordinator.

It was an eventful morning hockey-wise, too. Craig Gaudet arrived from Alaska; he and former college roommate Jase Weslosky had some time to catch up. Shawn Collymore, who hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury Feb. 23, said he “noticed a huge difference today, 20 to 30 percent better.” He’s questionable for the Reign’s next game Thursday in Las Vegas.

Beau Erickson, who dislocated his sacroiliac joint March 4, reported some progress after practice, his longest since the injury.

“It’s something I will play through,” he declared. “I’m hoping Thursday I’ll be healthy enough to play.”

Karl Taylor sounded more cautious, a luxury afforded by Weslosky’s strong start Saturday. “We’re not going to rush the situation,” he said. IR is still a possibility for Erickson, mainly because the Reign have to add Gaudet to the active roster today and will need to take someone else off.

More in tomorrow’s notebook. A couple more items from the chopping block:

• Doug Krantz’s first goal of the season Friday could be re-credited to someone else. Taylor said that the shot appeared to touch a stick before going into the net. Whether it was deflected by a Reign stick or a Wranglers stick will affect the final verdict.

• James McEwan offered a strong thought on his four-game suspension for punching Simon Ferguson: “If they’re trying to send a message,” he said, “I’m not sure what message they’re trying to send.”

• Brad Sholl, who last professional experience came with the Los Angeles Blades of the Roller Hockey International (RHI) league, was the goalie for the Kings’ alumni team on Saturday. Sholl is the manager at Toyota Sports Center, the Kings’ practice rink, and a local youth goalie instructor.

Update: Mike Zacharias is going on 3-day IR to make room for Gaudet.

Reign 3, Las Vegas 1.

Frequent visitors to my blog(s) know I don’t name-drop, so I am truly making an exception tonight.

A couple weeks ago NHL defenseman-turned-broadcaster Larry Murphy was in Los Angeles for the Kings-Red Wings game. I caught up with him afterward and started talking about the 2006 playoffs, specifically how the Red Wings got bounced in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Detroit was stacked that year — Yzerman, Shanahan and Chelios were nearing the end, but still effective; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Samuelsson were entering their prime; Nick Lidstrom was Nick Lidstrom.

Murphy was making the point that, after the Wings lost in six games, people tended to over-analyze the loss. The reason they lost was simple — the goalie, Manny Legace, didn’t have a good series. Especially in the playoffs, that’s often all that matters.

Jase Weslosky isn’t Dwayne Roloson, but his 35-save performance was the difference in the Reign’s win on Saturday.
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Las Vegas 7, Reign 4.

Mike Zacharias summed up the collective frustration in the building by tossing his stick when the game’s final goal sailed into the Reign net.

“It’s not them scoring on our goalie, it’s them scoring on us,” David Walker said. “We all take a piece of the pie.”

But clearly the Reign need more than the tandem of Zacharias and emergency backup Dennis Cook, who can’t play unless Zacharias is hurt. That’s why Karl Taylor, who almost never names his starting goalie, named Jase Weslosky the starting goalie for Saturday night’s game against Las Vegas — and Weslosky wasn’t even in Ontario yet.

The Wranglers’ seventh goal, by Ryan Huddy, was one of only two Zacharias allowed that you would expect the goalie to make most of the time. The other five were the result of defensive-zone turnovers, missed backchecks, and odd-man rushes against — the unholy triumvirate of defensive lapses that has doomed the Reign all season.

That said, Zacharias was lucky that he didn’t give up nine goals. One shot trickled through between his legs, got behind him and was heading for the goal line before Alex Bourret (goal, assist) swept it out. Another scoring chance ended when Justin Bernhardt hit the post in front of a wide-open net from — no joke — three feet away.

Doug Krantz, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch and Bourret scored the goals; Kraemer and Bourret’s came on the power play. The Reign outshot an opponent for the second straight game (40-31) and their offense was humming so well, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a comeback from down 6-4. That’s why Huddy’s goal, with 2:02 left, was so frustrating.

More on the Weslosky and Craig Gaudet trades in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes/observations:
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