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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Preseason games announced.

The Las Vegas Wranglers announced a pair of preseason games with the Reign on Thursday.

The Wranglers will visit Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m., then host the Reign the next day at Orleans Arena at 2 p.m. Along with seven regular-season dates, that brings the number of Vegas visits to eight this season.

It’s possible that the Reign will announce another preseason game, however, the team has never played more than two games in a single preseason.

The Reign open the regular season at home on Oct. 14 against the Bakersfield 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.

Reign 3, Las Vegas 1.

Frequent visitors to my blog(s) know I don’t name-drop, so I am truly making an exception tonight.

A couple weeks ago NHL defenseman-turned-broadcaster Larry Murphy was in Los Angeles for the Kings-Red Wings game. I caught up with him afterward and started talking about the 2006 playoffs, specifically how the Red Wings got bounced in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Detroit was stacked that year — Yzerman, Shanahan and Chelios were nearing the end, but still effective; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Samuelsson were entering their prime; Nick Lidstrom was Nick Lidstrom.

Murphy was making the point that, after the Wings lost in six games, people tended to over-analyze the loss. The reason they lost was simple — the goalie, Manny Legace, didn’t have a good series. Especially in the playoffs, that’s often all that matters.

Jase Weslosky isn’t Dwayne Roloson, but his 35-save performance was the difference in the Reign’s win on Saturday.
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Las Vegas 7, Reign 4.

Mike Zacharias summed up the collective frustration in the building by tossing his stick when the game’s final goal sailed into the Reign net.

“It’s not them scoring on our goalie, it’s them scoring on us,” David Walker said. “We all take a piece of the pie.”

But clearly the Reign need more than the tandem of Zacharias and emergency backup Dennis Cook, who can’t play unless Zacharias is hurt. That’s why Karl Taylor, who almost never names his starting goalie, named Jase Weslosky the starting goalie for Saturday night’s game against Las Vegas — and Weslosky wasn’t even in Ontario yet.

The Wranglers’ seventh goal, by Ryan Huddy, was one of only two Zacharias allowed that you would expect the goalie to make most of the time. The other five were the result of defensive-zone turnovers, missed backchecks, and odd-man rushes against — the unholy triumvirate of defensive lapses that has doomed the Reign all season.

That said, Zacharias was lucky that he didn’t give up nine goals. One shot trickled through between his legs, got behind him and was heading for the goal line before Alex Bourret (goal, assist) swept it out. Another scoring chance ended when Justin Bernhardt hit the post in front of a wide-open net from — no joke — three feet away.

Doug Krantz, Kyle Kraemer, C.J. Stretch and Bourret scored the goals; Kraemer and Bourret’s came on the power play. The Reign outshot an opponent for the second straight game (40-31) and their offense was humming so well, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a comeback from down 6-4. That’s why Huddy’s goal, with 2:02 left, was so frustrating.

More on the Weslosky and Craig Gaudet trades in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. A few more notes/observations:
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Reign 2, Las Vegas 1.

Dusty Collins scored his second game-winning goal in as many games this week, lifting the Reign to back-to-back wins for the first time in five weeks.

Shawn Collymore also scored for the Reign, who took advantage of a strong penalty kill (5-for-5) and a strong night in the faceoff circle to hold the Wranglers to 29 shots on goal. Beau Erickson (2-5-0) made 28 saves, including eight during a first-period two-man advantage for Las Vegas.

The Wranglers’ only goal was a short-handed marker by Greg Collins at 13:00 of the second period. Dusty Collins answered with the game-winner 37 seconds later.

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

Johnson hit with one-game suspension.

Chaz Johnson received a one-game suspension Friday for his hit on Alaska’s Mark Isherwood on Wednesday. Johnson, who received a game misconduct for violating the newly instituted rule 48.3, will miss tonight’s game against the Las Vegas Wranglers.

“I thought it was kind of a tough call,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said. “The league’s going to do what they have to do and we respect the decision. We want to protect our players. We don’t want anybody taking advantage of a person in a weak position. I thought it was a tough call based on the play. I’d rather have the league fault on the side of safety and protecting the players. It’s tough to argue the call in the end.

“I’m not sure how they come to the final conclusion – what’s a suspension and what’s not. It’s a new rule. They just try to determine is it a shot to the head? Is it a shoulder? The force, is the player injured?”

The ECHL declined to comment on the suspension, citing a longstanding policy.

With Isherwood standing in the slot, Johnson charged laterally from the left circle and made contact with the defenseman a moment after Isherwood released a shot. The hit, which appeared to be shoulder-first, spun Isherwood around and
immediately drew a game misconduct. The one-game suspension was at the ECHL’s discretion, however, Johnson will be suspended automatically if he’s hit with the penalty again.

It’s the sixth suspension in the league under rule 48, which was first adopted late last season in the NHL in response to a spate of concussions caused by blind-side hits to the head. The rule was subsequently instituted this season by both the ECHL and the AHL.

Johnson was also fined an undisclosed amount under Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.

Injury updates, and a trade.

Jon Francisco was still awaiting the results of an MRI scan on his lower-body injury during the Reign’s morning skate Saturday, but the forward will miss at least the next three weeks regardless of the diagnosis. Francisco was placed on 21-day IR, leaving the Reign without their second-leading goal scorer until at least mid-December.

While Francisco would be eligible to return Dec. 18 against Bakersfield, he might need to take advantage of the eight-day break between that game and the Reign’s Dec. 26 meeting with Las Vegas.

Francisco joins a growing injured list that includes right wing Chaz Johnson (shoulder), forward Kyle Kraemer (knee), and defenseman Chad Starling (lower body). Needing immediate help, the Reign acquired Justin Taylor from the Idaho Steelheads for future considerations.

Taylor, 27, has spent most of his seven professional seasons in the AHL, but started this year in Idaho, playing 10 games and collecting three goals and eight points.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound center played 36 games for the Las Vegas Wranglers in 2008-09, collecting 13 goals and 30 points. Taylor is expected to fly in from Victoria, British Columbia, where the Steelheads are playing the Salmon Kings, and play in the lineup tonight. He will wear number 19.

Las Vegas 1, Reign 0.

Make it six.

Six weeks into the regular season, six home games at Citizens Business
Bank Arena, zero wins for the Reign in front of their home crowd. That
was the consequence of Friday’s 1-0 loss to the Las Vegas Wranglers –
that, and an injury that knocked Jon Francisco out of the game in the
third period.

The Reign failed to capitalize on five power plays, and allowed a Ryan
Huddy goal during a 5-on-4 power play in the first period that proved to
be the game-winner.

Kellen Briggs stopped 24 of 25 shots in the loss. Defenseman Chad
Starling and right wing Chaz Johnson both missed their first game of the
season. Irvine native C.J. Stretch re-entered the lineup.

We’ll try to get updated information in this space, including Francisco’s status for Saturday night’s rematch against the Wranglers, in the morning.

Las Vegas 4, Reign 1.

The Reign are still winless at home.

Shawn Collymore’s putback at 11:24 of the third period was the extent of the scoring for the Reign, who struck out on the power play (0-for-4) and lost Chaz Johnson to a shoulder injury on a late second-period fight.

Johnson said after the game he heard a crack in the shoulder pulling down the jersey of his opponent Dan Bertram, who suffered a bloodied nose, but didn’t separate it and only stayed out as a precaution.

Kellen Briggs stopped 19 of 22 in the loss. More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.