Irwin suspended four games, Couture one.

The Reign will be without two-thirds of their top line when they return to the ice next Monday in Las Vegas.

Left wing Geoff Irwin was suspended four games, and Derek Couture one, by the ECHL on Tuesday for their actions Sunday in Alaska.

Aces defenseman Brandon Gentile slew-footed Couture at 14:30 of the second period of Sunday’s game, moments after Francois Brisebois scored the Reign’s first goal of the game. That set off a massive brawl with Couture and Gentile in the middle. You can see how it started at the 2:27 mark of this video:

At the 3:08 mark, Couture appears to be the second man in on a fight between Gentile and Reign defenseman Chris Huxley. Couture was given a double game misconduct for his role in the altercation.

Irwin was suspended for an illegal hit to the head; his only penalty in the game was a second-period elbowing minor. “He went through the body clean and he obviously came up high on his follow-through on the hit,” Reign coach Jason Christie said. “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. It’s understandable. He came up a little too high. You don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy. ”

Kyle Kraemer, who fetched a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking a hard hit from Alaska’s Kane Lafranchise at the end of the second period, was fined an undisclosed amount along with Irwin and Couture.

Carlson is released, injury updates.

Four folding chairs sat in a row leading into the Reign locker room Tuesday, the makeshift “lockers” painting a plain picture that space was suddenly at a premium.

Locker-room space, of course, relates directly to salary-cap space and roster space, and that meant Dustin Carlson’s stay as the Reign’s third goalie ended Tuesday. Carlson was released in advance of tonight’s game against the Stockton Thunder, in which Darcy Kuemper is expected to start and J-F Berube to back up.

“Practice time is huge, and it’s tough having three goaltenders,” Reign coach Jason Christie said. “Sometimes you have to adjust. We’re getting players healthy here, so it comes down to cap space and having guys active. That’s the reality we’re looking at.”

Carlson went 0-1 with a 4.16 goals-against average and a .857 save percentage in two appearances this season. Both appearances came last weekend in Alaska, coming off the bench after the Aces had a big first period against Berube and the Reign.

A longshot to make the team after joining camp on a tryout, Carlson was retained as an unofficial emergency backup in case of injury or promotion to Berube or Darcy Kuemper. The Wild recalled Kuemper to the NHL last weekend, giving Carlson his lone, brief opportunity in the crease before Kuemper returned to Ontario (more on that in a future blog).

So who are the injured players and when will they come back? The latest updates, ranked by this beat writer’s predicted order of return (soonest to farthest away):
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Van de Mosselaer debuts in a calm day of practice.

No sparks flew at Center Ice Arena this morning — literal or metaphorical — which must have been a welcome change of pace after yesterday’s on-ice dramatics. Both J.D. Watt and Francois Brisebois were back on the ice. Business as usual, it appeared.

Practice was uptempo again, with an emphasis on breakouts and offensive-zone puck movement. Jason Christie is looking for improvement from a power play that ranks 20th (last) in the ECHL and a penalty-kill that ranks 19th.

Adrian van de Mosselaer was present from start to finish for his first full practice of the season. The defenseman, who didn’t arrive in Ontario until this week, was huffing and puffing at times. He’ll need to get back in shape after being bedridden by mononucleosis for a full week not long ago; the good news is he’s got time.

The Reign will have seven active defensemen for the weekend; Christie will decide tomorrow which seven. Either Pat Bowen or Philippe Seydoux will make the trip to Colorado this weekend. Seydoux will go if he gets his P-1 visa approved in time. If not, count on Bowen making the trip.

Kyle Kraemer skated for about 40 minutes today. He isn’t engaging in contact yet, but that’s the next step. And that’s encouraging.

More from Van de Mosselaer in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

Odds, ends, and a scrum in practice.

Dylan Yeo called it a couple weeks ago.

“I’m sure
later on in the year there will be a couple fights like any family will have,” the Reign captain said.
“It comes with being a hockey player. It’s something to push through. When
you’re on the ice, it’s all business and you’re a family again.”

J.D. Watt, Francois Brisebois and the rest of the Reign can spend the afternoon pushing through an on-ice scuffle between the two players that got Watt kicked out of practice immediately, and saw Brisebois hobble off the ice a bit later with what can only be described at a glance as a “lower-body injury.”

Coach Jason Christie’s assessment: “It’s intense and that stuff happens. We’ve got to see how to approach it and how to deal with it. Hopefully Bris is all right. But you have those emotions run high. Especially the practices we’re doing here, running and gunning. The way it happened, I wasn’t a big fan of it. Especially how it did happen. Bris was not in the wrong there. We’ll cross that bridge here. We’ll go back, have a meeting about it, and go from there.”

Watt, to his credit, was willing to talk about it after practice.

“It happens,” Watt said. “Guys get intense. It was a heat-of-the-moment practice kind of thing. You never want to hurt anyone. I think Brisebois’ all fine. I talked to him afterwards. … Everyone does things they probably wish they wouldn’t do. Teams win games because they’re competitive, and you practice like you play. … Not to say you go out there to do that kind of stuff, but in the heat of the moment it happens.”

We’ll see how this plays out. If Yeo is correct, they’ll all be one big happy family before long.

A few more notes:
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Injuries piling up, more cuts, Berube assigned.

Monday was a big day of news for the Reign, and most of it was bad.

First, the very bad: Winger Kyle Kraemer and defenseman Pat Bowen will both start the season on injured reserve with lower-body injuries they suffered in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers. Both are expected to miss 2-6 weeks.

The growing list of injured players now includes defenseman Jason Fredricks (knee), defenseman Adrian van de Mosselaer (mononucleosis), Kraemer and Bowen. In addition, there is still no resolution to Chad Starling’s immigration issue, leaving the Reign without four of the seven defensemen they signed over the summer — five, if you include Jordan Hill, who is starting the season with AHL affiliate Manchester.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either a bad omen for the rest of the season or good timing. Including Mike Montgomery, a rookie out of Minnesota-Duluth whom Christie signed Monday, the Reign will be able to start the season with six defenseman (Dylan Yeo, Jeff MacPhee, Iain McPhee, Travis Gawryletz and Philippe Seydoux are the others). Once the others get healthy, and Starling is allowed to cross the border, Christie will have plenty of blue-line options at his disposal.
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Las Vegas 4, Reign 2.

Bill Bagron and Kyle Kraemer scored the goals, and Jase Weslosky made 28 saves as the Reign dropped their first of two exhibition games against the Wranglers.

An unusually fast-tempo game — unusual, at least, by the more conservative standard set by Karl Taylor — worked in the Reign’s favor early. The goals by Bagron and Kraemer provided a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but Vegas shut the door with four unanswered goals.

Longtime Reign foe Ned Lukacevic got Vegas on the board at the 10:12 mark, putting back a long rebound from a bad angle under pressure after Weslosky stoned Chris Francis at the front of the net. The power-play goal shifted the momentum in favor of the Wranglers, who outshot Ontario 15-6 in the second period and 13-9 in the third.

Judd Blackwater’s goal with 3:15 left in the third period broke a 2-2 tie and Adam Miller provided the final score with 1:24 left. More game details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

A few observations that won’t make the paper:
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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.”
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Erickson, Kraemer give Reign four signed players.

Beau Erickson and Kyle Kraemer have re-signed with the Reign, the team announced today, bringing the 2011-12 roster into a bit more focus.

Erickson was a trouper during a rough season and his final numbers (3.39 goals-against average, .906 save percentage) reflect that. But after losing his first five starts, the 25-year-old from Iowa went 11-7-1-2 to finish the season. He and Jase Weslosky — along with Jason Fredricks, one of two signings announced last week — give the Reign two goalies under contract to start the season.

While it would be a shame to lose the only known Reign-themed goalie mask in existence, Erickson said Tuesday that he’s also looking latch on in an AHL or even an NHL training camp.

If that doesn’t happen, he’s not worried about being thrust into a goalie competition in Ontario – even if the Kings assign J-F Berube to the Reign. “Competition is good. It’s healthy. I’m not too concerned about it,” Erickson said.

Kraemer was at times a complimentary player, at other times a star on a Reign team starved for scoring, finishing with 16 goals and 37 points in 54 games. He spent part of his summer honing his skills in the Czech Republic for the U.S. Inline Hockey team, falling short to the host country in the gold-medal game.

“My goals are to A, be consistent. B, help our team win every night and C, get called up eventually,” he said.

More from both players in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

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 Kyle Kraemer?

The rundown on forward Kyle Kraemer:

2010-11 stats [career]: 16 goals, 37 points, minus-8 rating, 37 penalty minutes in 54 games.

Quote: “I’d like to come back here. I really enjoyed it here. I enjoyed coach, enjoyed the staff, the fans are great. … I have no issues with this place.”

Pros: Among the Reign’s fastest (and hardest-working) forwards, Kraemer was a decent offensive threat as a rookie. He was on pace to lead the team in goals scored had he not missed 18 games with a knee injury, his six power-play goals were second on the team, and his 37 points ranked 19th among ECHL rookies.

Cons: Kraemer’s play away from the puck still has room for improvement, and he left many checks unfinished. Coming from an NCAA program (Northeastern), Kraemer still must prove he can withstand the rigors of a 72-game season.