Epilogue on a whirlwind week.

One could make the argument that the past two weeks were the most important in Reign history.

Think about it: A week ago Monday, Karl Taylor was the head coach, the Canucks were contemplating becoming a secondary affiliate, there was still no broadcaster, no assistant coach, and game-day parking at Citizens Business Bank Arena was still free for everyone. Today, Jason Christie and his offense-first approach are in the director’s chair and Mark Hardy is his right-hand man. Dan Hubbard is the internet radio voice, and season-ticket holders better hold onto that “free parking” sticker.

Much has changed in a short amount of time. We won’t know until October what it all means as wins and losses go, but if you’ve been following the team for any amount of time, you have to be intrigued by the possibilities. (Maybe not so much about the parking thing.)

I collected a lot of quotes this week that didn’t make the paper or the blog. Here they are:
Continue reading “Epilogue on a whirlwind week.” »

Reign sign ex-Salmon King Couture.

Derek Couture, a gritty power forward who split last season between the AHL and the Victoria Salmon Kings, is the 10th player announced to have signed with the Reign.

The 6-foot-1 right wing turned pro in 2005-06, spending the majority of his time in the AHL. Couture, 27, has also played 10 games in the Austrian League and 50 games in the ECHL for Victoria, Charlotte and Elmira.

“He’s a big kid who is very aggressive in his style of play at our level,” said Karl Taylor, who signed Couture before resigning to take an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Wolves. “He’s been in the American League most of the time. He should be a top-3 forward, in my opinion, a real strong power forward. He’s not afraid to stick up for himself or his teammates. He’s a quiet guy but he plays a big game, a big signing who can really help the team out.”

Couture had 19 points (eight goals, 11 points) in 25 games for Victoria last season, along with 76 penalty minutes. In four ECHL playoff games, he had one goal and one assist. Playing for the Connecticut Whale, Couture had six goals and 10 points in 20 regular-season games along with one goal and one assist in six playoff games.

“He’s big, strong, skates well, likes to run people over. He’s going to be a fun player to watch. Someone Jason (Christie, the new head coach) can rely on for leadership. …┬áJason should be happy hopefully. Obviously Jason will have decisions on who he keeps.”

So far, the following players have been announced:

Forwards (4): Couture, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch.

Defensemen (4): Chad Starling, Pat Bowen, Jason Fredricks, Adrian Van de Mosselaer.

Goalies (2): Jase Weslosky, Beau Erickson.

The Reign acquired the negotiating rights to forward Geoff Irwin from the Idaho Steelheads for forward Aaron Lewadniuk. A new contract for Irwin hasn’t been announced yet, but he’s expected to sign.

Kemp talks about the next coach.

On the same day the Reign and Chicago Wolves formally announced that Karl Taylor was leaving fort he Canucks’ AHL affiliate, Justin Kemp was already looking forward.

As reported in today’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin, the coaching search is already underway. Kemp has both some ideal characteristics and a timetable in mind.

“My goal is to have this done as soon as possible,” Kemp said. “In a perfect world, we’ll have an announcement within a couple weeks, maybe sooner.

“Because this isn’t two or three months ago, we’re looking for someone who can come in and make an immediate impact. We recognize we haven’t made the playoffs the last two years. That’s the primary goal … to make us a winner right now, to take the players we’ve signed, hopefully bring in some of their own contacts. Someone that has some knowledge of the inner workings of just being the one guy. It’s a job that a lot of people think it’s an entry-level position and it’s really not. Coaches do a lot of things that have nothing to do with coaching. You don’t have the assistants.”

We’ll pass along more information as we know it. More from Kemp and Karl Taylor in tomorrow’s editions.

More on Erickson, Kraemer.

Today’s story on Beau Erickson and Kyle Kraemer re-signing with the Reign left little room to explore a couple interesting tangents.

1. Erickson has been working with Milwaukee-based sports psychologist Curtis Brackenbury for the first time this summer.

“He came highly recommended from some guys in St. Louis as well as [Anaheim Ducks goalie] Danny Ellis,” Erickson said. “We talk every week, talk on some things that help my game, reasons certain things help out there, to enhance what I get out of practice, team situations … the way I prepare, handle certain situations — things like that. It’s matured my game.”

Erickson said that Brackenbury also counts Ellis, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a number of recent NHL draftees, and some members of the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars among his current clients.

Reign coach Karl Taylor said that it’s essential for goalies to have a short memory — for example, after they’ve allowed a goal or played a bad game. “Everyone’s looking for an edge,” he said. “If that gives Beau an edge, we support it 100 percent.”
Continue reading “More on Erickson, Kraemer.” »

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.

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:

Continue reading “Notes from practice.” »

Reign lose 6-3, plus more on Johnson, McEwan and Alex Morton.

The Reign lost in almost typical fashion. Take away the final three minutes of the first period, and they played one of their better games in recent memory – getting more scoring chances, more shots on goal, and more time in the offensive zone than Idaho. That doesn’t happen often.

Of course, you can’t take away those inexplicable three minutes of hockey in which Idaho scored three goals – twice on the power play and again at even strength.

“That’s kind of been the problem we’ve had all year, putting a 60-minute game together,” David Walker said. “Yeah, it’s one of our better games. We got blocked shots, put a lot of shots on net, did a lot of things we wanted to do at the start of the game. But when a team has a power play that good, you can’t give them opportunity after opportunity to do it.”

Walker went on to point out that playing well means little. Alaska is on its way to beating Victoria (the game is currently in the third period). Assuming the 4-2 score holds, the Reign would be left with 11 games in which to make up nine points on the seventh-place Salmon Kings to make the playoffs. So long as the Reign have at least five games to play, and Victoria keeps losing – a loss tonight would be its fourth straight – there’s a chance.

The Reign played without Chaz Johnson and James McEwan; tomorrow’s editions
of the Sun and Daily Bulletin will have plenty on the Reign’s reaction
to the ECHL suspensions. I didn’t have room for many details on the game, so here are a few:
Continue reading “Reign lose 6-3, plus more on Johnson, McEwan and Alex Morton.” »

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:

Continue reading “Stockton 4, Reign 3.” »