Jeff Corey: Found.

Jeff Corey popped up in Sweden today, not coincidentally the same day that the Reign suspended their leading scorer. Corey is joining ÖHC, a team based in Brunflo, Sweden that competes in Division 1 (which, of course, is the third-highest league of competition in Sweden).

Corey’s exodus comes as no surprise; suspending him was the final step that allows the Reign to retain his ECHL rights if Corey chooses to play North American hockey again this season.

According to the website eishockey.wettpoint.com (suitable for work), ÖHC is in second place in their division. The Swedish hockey leagues use a relegation system that would allow ÖHC to move up to the second-tier league HockeyAllsvenskan if it finishes atop of Division 1 at the end of the season.

Utah 5, Reign 1.

Make it six straight losses, 15 in 17 home games, and and an even bigger deficit in the Western Conference basement for the Reign.

The season isn’t halfway over, but eighth-place Ontario (10-22-0-1, 21 points) is already 27 points behind first-place Utah (22-10-3-1, 48 points). It was said here before the Christmas holiday break that a strong comeback following the week off was needed to entertain thoughts of saving the season. The Reign came back recharged to win their next two, but have since lost six straight. Mathematically, their hole isn’t impossible to overcome to make the playoffs, but the fact that mathematics would enter the conversation when the season isn’t halfway over yet speaks volumes.

The signs of progress, relative to a respectable effort Friday, were exiguous. The Reign started strong, outshooting Utah 13-5 at one point in the first period, and maintained a hard checking game for 60 minutes even though there were no fights. (Credit the officiating crew for stepping in quickly on a couple occasions.) The Reign’s 29 shots on goal more than doubled yesterday’s total, and it’s clear the team isn’t hesitant to shoot anymore. That message got through loud and clear.

But there was a stark disparity in the special teams. The Reign converted 1 of 6 power plays; the Grizzlies converted 3 of 7. Two Reign PPs ended when they were whistled for offensive-zone penalties, which speaks to a lack of discipline.

Alex Petizian made his Reign debut and stopped 30 of 35. Shawn Collymore scored the Reign’s lone goal off a costly Utah turnover. Utah’s Simon Ferguson came back from a pair of injuries to his face – including one late in the second period that drew blood and forced him off the ice – to record a hat trick.

Plenty more in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. No updates on Jeff Corey, other than that he is still listed on the roster so it’s a safe bet he hasn’t officially signed in Europe.

Utah 5, Reign 3.

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).

Victoria 8, Reign 4.

The Reign’s two-game winning streak came crashing down Wednesday in Victoria, British Columbia with an 8-4 loss to the Salmon Kings. The eight goals allowed represent a season high and all were charged to goalie Kellen Briggs, who stopped 37 of 45 shots.

The Reign never led in the game but were still within striking distance after two periods, trailing 3-2 on a power-play goal by Lane Caffaro and an even-strength tally by Jeff Corey.

Yet they also failed to capitalize on a five-minute long power play late in the second, incurred when Victoria forward Rick Cleaver was charged with a major penalty for an illegal check to the head of Corey.

The floodgates opened in the third period, when Painchaud and former Reign forward Tim Kraus scored 25 seconds apart to make it 5-2. Nine seconds after Kraus’ goal, Brett O’Malley scored for the Reign to make it 5-3 at 8:44.

Reign defenseman Doug Krantz gave the Salmon Kings a 5-minute power play of their own when he was hit with a kneeing major and a game misconduct at 9:47. Victoria took advantage, getting a pair of goals to make it 7-3 before Alex Bourret answered with a short-handed goal for the Reign.

Painchaud completed the scoring with 4:38 left in the game.

The Reign (10-17-0-1) travel to Anchorage for a two-game series with the Alaska Aces beginning Friday.

Caffaro (goal, assist), O’Malley (goal), Corey (goal, assist), Pat Bowen and Dusty Collins were the only plus players for the Reign. Kyle Kraemer added an assist on Corey’s team-leading 11th goal of the season.

Rob Hennigar (four assists) and Matt Stefanishion (goal, three assists) had four-point games for Victoria, and Kraus added two assists to go along with his first goal of the season.

Reign 6, Victoria 3.

The Reign have successfully hit the “reset” button.

Kellen Briggs made 47 saves, including all 19 he faced in the third period, en route to the Reign’s second straight win. Led by Briggs, the penalty kill awoke from its long slumber to snuff out four of the Salmon Kings’ five man-advantage chances.

Ten different players recorded a point for the Reign, led by Chaz Johnson’s two-goal effort – he scored them 17 seconds apart in the second period to break a 3-3 tie. Jordan Morrison and Kyle Kraemer each had a goal and an assist; Jeff Corey and Lane Caffaro had one goal each; and Dusty Collins and David Walker both had two assists.

The Reign scored six goals for the second straight game despite getting outshot 50-28. Corey, Kraemer and Caffaro have two goals the past two games, and Johnson has three. Newcomer Alex Bourret has two assists in the three games.

Another newcomer, defenseman Doug Krantz, made his Reign debut and was held without a point. Defenseman Luke Beaverson missed his second straight game.

Former Reign center Tim Kraus was held without a point in his first game against his former team.

The two teams play again at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Victoria.

Reign 6, Las Vegas 5, OT.

For a moment there, the script seemed awfully familiar, the Reign squandering a two-goal lead to trail 5-4 midway through the third period.

What better time to reverse course, with the Christmas break behind them, two new teammates in uniform and, oh by the way, that unsightly record on home ice (2-11-0-1) they’ve been trying to get rid of all year.

Dusty Collins scored the tying goal at 13:13 of the third period, and Lane Caffaro took advantage of an overtime power play with the game-winner, lifting the Reign to a cathartic 6-5 win over the Wranglers before 6,296 at The Bank.

Pat Bowen, Kyle Kraemer, Chaz Johnson and Jeff Corey also scored for the Reign. Johnson also knocked Las Vegas starter Michael Ouzas out of the game at 7:49 of the second period, a collision that netted 17 minutes worth of penalties but brought emergency backup Archie Henderson off the bench. Henderson, who has bounced around quite a bit this season, stopped 19 of 22 in relief of Ouzas.

Kellen Briggs stopped 34 of 39 for the Reign, who welcomed former Wranglers right wing Alex Bourret (two assists) and welcomed back defenseman Shawn Germain (plus-2). The Reign scored three goals on the power play as did the Wranglers. More in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

A couple more notes that won’t make the paper:
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Delahey leaves the team, and other notes from practice.

Put another defenseman at the top of the Reign’s Christmas wish list.

Matt Delahey has left for the University of Saskatchewan and has been suspended by the team. The 21-year-old rookie from Moose Jaw had two goals and three assists in 20 games in his first pro season, and played his final game Saturday against Bakersfield.

Delahey did not sign after he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Last year he had four goals and 22 points in his final WHL season, split between the Regina Pats and the Chilliwack Bruins.

Delahey was one of a few absentees at today’s intrasquad scrimmage, along with defenseman Luke Beaverson and right wing Jeff Corey, who were given maintenance days. Defenseman Chad Starling (lower body) skated on his own for 30-45 minutes prior to the scrimmage. His target return date has been pushed back to Sunday.

Plenty more in tomorrow’s notebook, including why Shawn Collymore didn’t play Saturday and why Jon Francisco might not be standing behind the Reign’s bench much longer.

Bakersfield 5, Reign 1.

The Reign found a new way to lose Saturday – start strong, keep the game close for two periods, then let the game get out of reach in the third.

This new route to a familiar result didn’t sit well with the denizens at The Bank, many of whom headed straight for the exit after Stephane Goulet’s goal made it 5-1 at 7:38 of the third period. The Reign have lost five straight, 12 of 13 at home, and it says here that their upcoming eight-day layoff could not have come at a better time.

Whether it gives Chad Starling, Eric Doyle, or Jon Francisco enough time to get healthy; Karl Taylor enough time to bring in a quality veteran; or this team enough time to simply hone its chemistry – a rare sight in recent weeks – the Reign need some time between games.
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Reign 3, Utah 2, OT.

It’s beginning to sound like a melodic broken record, but the Reign pulled out a close win on the road Saturday night.

Jeff Corey’s goal at 1:34 of overtime lifted the Reign to victory in a physically charged game in Utah. Back-to-back wins over the Grizzlies have given the Reign an 8-11-0-1 record, matching Bakersfield in the Pacific Division standings with 17 points. Because the Condors have a game in hand, the Reign can technically say they’re out of last place for the first time since Nov. 13.

Corey’s goal was his team-leading eighth of the season. He took a long pass from David Walker and fired it past Andrew Engelage for his second game-winning goal of the season. Walker’s assist was his second of the game and his team-leading 11th on the year.

Aaron Lewadniuk’s sixth goal of the season, during a first-period power play, opened the scoring midway through the first period. Dusty Collins made it 2-0 in the middle period with his second goal this season.

Utah answered with goals from Matt Clarke and Nick Tuzzolino, the latter coming with 5:00 left in the third period.

Starting his 18th consecutive game, Kellen Briggs made 37 saves on a night that saw Utah outshoot the Reign 39-24. The teams combined for nearly as many penalty minutes (60) as shots (63), including a second-period fight between Michael Pelech and Utah’s Marcus Carroll. Ten of the game’s 24 penalties were for roughing, including a pair that were charged to former Reign defenseman Brian Kilburg.

The Reign are unbeaten in five road games in November and December, and all five wins have been by a single goal. Their home record during that span is 1-7, with only a shootout win against the Las Vegas Wranglers in the win column.

The lineup looked the same for the third straight night but that could change against the Wranglers on Wednesday, especially if James McEwan (among others) is cleared to play and gets the nod to make his season debut from coach Karl Taylor.

Bakersfield 5, Reign 4.

Jeff Corey, Brett O’Malley, Justin Taylor and Aaron Lewadniuk scored goals – the Reign’s biggest offensive outburst in seven games – but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Reign’s second straight loss, their fifth setback in their last six.

As was the case in a 7-3 loss to the Utah Grizzlies on Sunday, the bigger problems were in the Reign’s own end. All of the Condors’ goals came from close range, including the game-winner by Erick Lizon on a second-chance effort with 7:44 to play in the third. Kellen Briggs made 21 saves, stopping every shot that came at him from a distance and a few that didn’t.

Chaz Johnson returned to the lineup for the Reign and was held scoreless skating on a line with O’Malley and Michael Pelech. Pat Bowen made his first appearance in a Reign uniform, subbing in for Eric Doyle on defense. Center Tim Kraus was also a healthy scratch.

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