Morrison to Europe; defenseman/goalie updates.

There were no new defensemen in practice, so the Reign roster had find another way to fluctuate Tuesday.

Jordan Morrison, who led the Reign in scoring last season, informed coach Jason Christie yesterday that he was leaving for the Erste Bank Eishockeyliga (First Bank Ice Hockey League), the top league in Austria. That’s about all we know right now; I spoke to Morrison briefly and he’s still got a few loose ends to tie up here. Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for more.

Morrison had no points and a minus-3 rating in three games this season.
He never seemed totally comfortable in Christie’s system and was squeezed out of
the center rotation (his natural position) by C.J. Stretch, Francois
Brisebois, Bill Bagron and newcomer Matt Tassone. Last season, Morrison rode a strong second half to finish with 20 goals and 55 points in 71 games.

The 25-year-old becomes the second player to head overseas since the season began. Defenseman Travis Gawryletz was the first.

Justin Taylor, who played 41 games for the Reign last season, also plays in the Austrian league for Ljubljana Olimpija HK.

A few more notes from practice:
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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 Justin Taylor?

The rundown on forward Justin Taylor:

2010-11 stats [career]: 7 goals, 21 points, minus-1 rating, 42 penalty minutes in 41 games.

Quote: “I’m getting to that age where I need to go over and start making a little more money. It’s also a little easier on the body, as far as the European schedule. But I really had fun here. I loved the area.”

Pros: Taylor has size (6-4, 210) and a good set of hands, is strong on the forecheck, and has plenty of experience at the next level. He also appeared to be recovered from the back injury that cost him all of 2009-10, especially in his final 12 games (four goals, nine points, plus-1).

Cons: Taylor became a veteran (more than 260 professional games played) last season and ECHL teams can only have four. If he’s going to be worth a spot, and doesn’t go to Europe, Taylor needs to prove that his first 29 games (three goals, 12 points) were just a fluke.

Justin Taylor post-season quotes.

Justin Taylor’s season followed the typical Reign trajectory. He got off to a slow start then picked up his game in the second half.

When the 28-year-old left wing arrived from Idaho as a midseason pick-up, he was often slotted in as the 10th forward. After missing nearly three weeks in January and February with a back injury, he became a regular on the top line. Taylor had four goals, nine points and was a plus-1 in his final 12 games.

The reasons for Taylor’s slow start were more obvious than for some of his teammates. Read on …
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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 7, Bakersfield 5.

There were a number of strange aspects to Wednesday’s game, not the least of which was a season-high seven goals against a team that had beaten the Reign in 11 of 14 meetings coming into the night.

Karl Taylor insisted that it had nothing to do with the pressure of making playoffs being off.

“Pressure doesn’t affect the players. We’re freakin’ 11-21 at home, let’s figure it out,” he said. “We didn’t score seven goals because we’re already eliminated. That has nothing to do with it. We got some good bounces tonight and we shot a lot of pucks. Probably a couple their goalie would like to have back.”

Shawn Germain, who scored a short-handed goal to set a new career high for goals in a single season (4), had a different take. Check that out in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Brett O’Malley had two goals, and Alex Bourret (on a penalty shot), Justin Taylor, Jordan Morrison and Aaron Lewadniuk had one each.

Beau Erickson stopped 29 of 34 shots in the win. Shane Connolly served as the backup.

Bakersfield 5, Reign 2.

In Victoria, two is a magic number.

I’m not sure what the opposite of “magic” is, but the same number is facing the Reign and it can’t feel nearly as good. Their loss in Bakersfield, combined with the Salmon Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Utah Grizzlies, puts the magic number — the combined number of Reign losses and Salmon Kings wins needed to eliminate the Reign from the playoffs — at two.

In plain English, the Reign could be eliminated as soon as Wednesday. That’s when both teams play next; Victoria is at Bakersfield and the Reign are at Idaho. Even if it doesn’t happen Wednesday, there’s a sinking sense of inevitability. The Reign have six games left in the regular season, the Salmon Kings have seven, and if the Reign are going to make the playoffs they will need to win at least five and see the Salmon Kings lose at least that many.

The game details seem somewhat muted by the circumstances, but here they are: Justin Taylor scored 43 seconds into the game and got into a fight with Bobby Robins 35 seconds later. Vyatcheslav Trukhno scored the first of two power-play goals by the Condors at 6:32 to tie the game at 1, and Adam Naglich scored short-handed at 3:18 of the second to make it 2-1 Condors.

Alex Bourret’s 10th goal of the season pulled the Reign even with 57 seconds left in the second period, but Joel Broda’s first goal of the game 11 seconds later restored the Condors’ one-goal lead. The Reign would never get the goal back — Broda scored again at 10:05 of the third and Trukhno provided the final score with an empty-net goal at 18:03.

Beau Erickson (39 saves) wound up the loser in his first start since March 15, a span of 15 days. The Reign were outshot 44-24 according to the final scoresheet and fell to 3-9-0-2 against the Condors for the season.

Aaron Lewadniuk did not play for the Reign, who went 0-for-4 on the power play and allowed two power-play goals by the Condors.

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.

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.

Reign 5, Elmira 4, SO.

Can the Jackals visit the Inland Empire more than one weekend a year?

The first-ever interconference game at CBBA, a true contrast in coaching philosophies and playing styles, needed the shootout to determine a winner. It resulted in a badly needed two points for the Reign, who kept pace with the victorious Victoria Salmon Kings (2-0 over Las Vegas) to remain nine points out of seventh place.

After Andrew Sweetland’s forehand wrister beat Beau Erickson in the second round, Jordan Morrison answered on the next shot by waiting out Garrett Zemlak with a high forehand wrister. In the fifth and final round, Justin Taylor reached around Zemlak’s back leg to put the Reign ahead for good. Erickson denied A.J. Perry on the other end to seal the win – the Reign’s second in the shootout this season.

Chaz Johnson scored two goals against the team he played for from 2007-10, Shawn Collymore scored a pair of goals, and Morrison added three assists.

It was a gutsy performance from Taylor, who didn’t play the entire second period after being leveled to the ice on a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check into the boards late in the first. He looked especially slow on his skates in the third period compared to a fast, fast Elmira team, but speed was not needed in the shootout. Just the long reach.

More game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Bulletin. A few more notes:
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