New defenseman, plus a Chad Starling update.

Vincent LoVerde is the Reign’s newest defenseman. The rookie out of Miami (Ohio) University averaged 1.5 goals and 7.5 assists in his four-year college career, which ended when the top-seeded RedHawks were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March.

LoVerde wasn’t at practice Thursday but Jason Christie said he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow night in Las Vegas. Eddie DelGrosso, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday, wasn’t at practice either and was still awaiting a physical. Christie is hopeful that DelGrosso can play, too.

Just to recap, then:

Jason Fredricks, Pat Bowen, Dylan Yeo, Chad Starling, Jordan Hill and Adrian van de Mosselaer signed over the summer. Jeff MacPhee, Iain McPhee and Travis Gawryletz signed during training camp. Steven Tarasuk, Mike Montgomery, Philippe Seydoux, JP Cote, Eddie DelGrosso and Vincent LoVerde either signed or were acquired through trade since the regular season began.

So even though the Reign have skated the same six defensemen in their first two regular-season games, 15 different blueliners have been under contract to the team since July 1.

Fifteen. Through two games. Let that sink in.
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C.J. Stretch gets training camp invite from Kings.

Reign center C.J. Stretch will join the Kings’ main training camp on a pro tryout contract. The camp begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.

Stretch had nine goals and 21 points in 46 games with the Reign last season, his first full pro season after five years in the Western Hockey League. The 22-year-old center is an alumnus of the California Wave program. He was invited to the Sharks’ rookie camp in 2009, but hadn’t gotten a look from any NHL teams since.

Reign defenseman Jordan Hill was expected to be at the Kings’ camp too, but will be home in Canada recuperating from off-season hip surgery during the month of September.

Reign qualify eight.

Eight players received qualifying offers from the Reign on Friday: Aaron Lewadniuk, Jordan Morrison, Luke Beaverson, Jordan Hill, Lane Caffaro, Brett O’Malley, Pat Bowen and C.J. Stretch.

Some things to remember:

• The Reign have probably already re-signed some other players, so these eight players are not the starting point for next year’s roster. All we know is that none of them have signed a contract yet.

• The qualifying offer remains open until August 1, or until it is accepted by the player, during which time he cannot be traded.

• History tells us that most guys will either decline their offers, or somehow wind up playing elsewhere. For example, in 2009 the Reign qualified eight players and only three (Mike Howe, Andrew Martens, Dan Knapp) wound up playing in Ontario the following season. Darren McMillan, Jason Techjma, Dale Reinhardt, Dusty Collins and Kellen Briggs all moved on. In 2010, two qualified players came back (Mike Zacharias and James McEwan), and the other six (Greg Hogeboom, Jon Rheault, Geoff Walker, Curtis Darling Peter Lenes and Chris Curran) moved on.

• Players that were not signed by today or extended a qualifying offer become unrestricted free agents.

• The ECHL allows up to eight players to be qualified.

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 Jordan Hill?

The rundown on defenseman Jordan Hill:

2010-11 stats [career]: 3 goals, 9 points, 26 penalty minutes, minus-10 rating in 28 games.

Pros: It was easy to forget (like I did for a moment) that Hill was in Ontario on an ECHL contract, since the rookie defenseman spent more than half the season in the AHL. At this level, his size (6-2, 195 pounds), skating and pugnacity are all assets. Hill showed he can occasionally chip in on offense, too.

Cons: He’ll probably never be a truly gifted offensive defenseman, and you wonder where the minus-10 rating came from. Still, Hill looks like a player on the way up and an AHL contract seems like his most likely deterrent to re-signing. It’s hard to imagine Karl Taylor won’t try.

Season ends in Manchester.

The Manchester Monarchs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Kings and Reign, saw their season end Saturday in an overtime heartbreaker.

Ryan Potulny wristed a shot past a screened Jeff Zatkoff at 3:07 of overtime, giving the Binghamton Senators the 6-5 win in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series. Manchester came back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1, and took a brief 5-4 lead on a goal by Dwight King at 10:19 of the third period.

But Binghamton’s Erik Condra scored with 1:45 left in the third period to tie the game at 5. Potulny’s overtime goal was his fifth point of the game, including four assists.

Zatkoff relieved Martin Jones after Condra’s first goal of the game, 56 seconds into the second period. Jordan Hill had an assist and finished plus-1 — much better statistically than center Brayden Schenn, The Hockey News‘ No. 1 overall prospect, who was held scoreless and finished minus-5 matched against the line of Potulny, Colin Greening and Ryan Keller (two goals).

King and Bud Holloway both finished with a goal and an assist. Jordan Nolan also had an assist. Jones stopped 13 of 16 shots, while Zatkoff stopped 20 of 23.

It was the first Game 7 played at home in the franchise’s 10-year history.

Johnson released by Manchester.

An update from the AHL, where the number of Reign players on playoff rosters dropped by one Tuesday.

The Manchester Monarchs released Chaz Johnson just two days before their first-round series with the Binghamton Senators — Johnson’s last AHL employer — was scheduled to begin. Johnson appeared in four games with the Monarchs, skating as a bottom-six right wing, collecting two penalty minutes and no points in four games.

Still dotting AHL rosters are Dwight King, Bud Holloway, Jordan Nolan, Patrick Mullen, Jordan Hill, Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff (Manchester); Beau Erickson (Peoria); Geoff Walker (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton); Andrew Martens (Lake Erie) and Colten Teubert (Oklahoma City).

Including Jon Rheault, who ended the season with the Abbotsford Heat (who didn’t make the Calder Cup playoffs), that’s 12 former Reign players who ended the regular season at the next level.

Reign 3, Utah 2.

Jordan Hill’s power-play goal at 12:09 of the third period lifted the Reign to a 3-2 road win over the Utah Grizzlies. C.J. Stretch and Alex Bourret also scored for the Reign, who snapped a three-game winning losing streak.

David Walker, who returned to the lineup after missing a game with a lower-body injury, collected the assist on Hill’s goal, his second helper of the game. Bourret, Jordan Morrison and Dusty Collins also had assists.

The victory allowed the Reign (21-32-24) to temporarily move nine points behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings in the Western Conference standings. Victoria is currently playing the Bakersfield Condors.

The Reign moved to 4-5-1 in 10 games against the Grizzlies this season, with the 11th and final game tomorrow in West Valley City.

Correction: We had it wrong earlier by virtue of a scorer’s error. Beau Erickson allowed the Reign’s first two goals before coming off when he was injured in a third-period collision with a Utah player. Mike Zacharias stopped 6 of 6 shots in relief and was credited with the win.

Stockton 4, Reign 3.

Make all the excuses you want – and there are some valid ones – but the Reign lost a game they needed to win Sunday.

Alex Bourret, Kyle Kraemer and Jordan Hill scored goals, and Mike Zacharias stopped 34 of 38 in his third start in as many nights. The Reign looked drained, and so did the Thunder, but the Reign couldn’t bury the equalizer after Hill’s power-play goal at 5:24 of the third period.

The standings picture is looking even more dire after the Reign gained only one of a possible six points this weekend. Mathematics dictates it’s too soon to write an epitaph, but … if it was going to take a miracle for the Reign to make the playoffs after their month of November (4-6-0), December (3-9-0), or January (4-8-2), they’ll need something more than that following a 6-6-3 February.

Realistically, they will need healthy returns from David Walker, Shawn Collymore, Justin Taylor and Chad Starling in March. Aside from the fact that all four are veteran leaders, that’s two of the team’s top three scorers (Walker and Collymore), the top-line left wing (Taylor) and one of two shutdown defensemen (Starling). 

Collymore can be activated before the Reign’s next game, Friday in Utah, but I don’t know how serious his “lower-body injury” is. Walker has tried to fight through a host of injuries already, and probably will again. So has Taylor. Starling is expected to be back by the third week of March.

In the meantime, they’ll need to bring in some quality reinforcements.

“We’re trying,” head coach Karl Taylor said. “We’re looking at different options. We have a lot of injuries right now. It’s not good timing, but it’s part of the game, part of the sport. It’s my job to find people to replace them.”

More from Taylor, as well as Zacharias, 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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Idaho 4, Reign 3, SO.

The Reign played more in character with the team that entered the weekend on a 6-3-1 run than the team that lost 7-2 a night earlier.

It still wasn’t enough. Idaho pulled out the win in the skills competition (they went 2-for-3; the Reign went 0-for-4) and scored in the closing minutes of the first and third period to pull out the shootout victory.

Alex Bourret, Jordan Hill and Chaz Johnson scored, and Zacharias stopped 33 shots between regulation and overtime. David Walker missed the game with a lower-body injury, and forward Justin Taylor left midway through the game due to an undisclosed injury. Considering the Reign also played without regulars Shawn Collymore and Brett O’Malley, it was a gutty and well-deserved point in the standings.

But will it be enough? The Victoria Salmon Kings won the shootout, pulling nine points ahead of the Reign in the standings with 15 games to play.

The Stockton Thunder visit at 5 p.m. Sunday.