A note on the Kelly Cup playoffs.

I probably won’t find the time or desire to provide an update after each night of ECHL playoff action, but felt compelled to highlight tonight’s box score from the Las Vegas Wranglers’ 6-4 win over the Utah Grizzlies.

Before a sitting-room only crowd of 1,882 at Orleans Arena, the Wranglers not only enjoyed eight power plays to the Grizzlies’ four, but were awarded two penalty shots (missing both). Utah didn’t get any free shots. If you watched the Reign’s three-game series in Las Vegas last weekend and felt there was a home-team bias of some sort (guessing that a few of you might fall into that category), this might help you sleep a little easier tonight.

Note also that Andy Thiessen, who refereed Thursday’s Reign-Wranglers game, as well as the Reign’s season-ending loss to Stockton in the 2009 playoffs, was the referee in Las Vegas tonight. Not an accusation of bias, just an observation.

Las Vegas 2, Reign 1.

The Reign’s second season of existence will not end in the playoffs.

Michael Pelech scored the lone goal and Curtis Darling stopped 32 of 34 shots, but the Reign were out of it even before the final horn sounded. That’s because the Victoria Salmon Kings – whom the Reign needed to lose tonight and tomorrow – demolished the Utah Grizzlies, 9-2.

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Ned Lukacevic loaned to AHL.

Good news for Reign fans: Ned Lukacevic, who scored a hat trick for the Las Vegas Wranglers in Thursday night’s 5-2 loss, has been loaned to the Texas Stars of the AHL.

The flashy forward from Serbia has split this season between the ECHL and the AHL. He had two goals and four points in eight games for the Providence Bruins earlier this season after playing 52 games in Providence last season.

Lukacevic has 28 goals and 65 points in 61 games for the Wranglers this season.

Las Vegas 5, Reign 2.

The Reign allowed three power-play goals and had to kill 10 penalties at all, turning a close contest into a futile game of catch-up in the third period.

The standings picture is bleak. Not only will the Reign have to win their final two games, but they’ll need the Utah Grizzlies to win both of their final two games in Victoria and at least one win must be in regulation.

Otherwise, the Reign will be the only team in an eight-team conference to miss the postseason.
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Wranglers collect another fine.

The ECHL announced today that Las Vegas Wranglers forward Alex Bourret has been fined an undisclosed amount “as a result of his actions in ECHL Game #586 at Ontario on March 7.” Bourret has been fined under Rule #29 – Supplemental Discipline.

Bourret was hit with a 2-minute slashing penalty at 4:15 of the second period, but it is not specified whether his fine is related to this penalty or not. As Rule 29 notes, “the Commissioner may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.”

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, player fines collected by the ECHL are given to the PHPA for its ECHL Player’s Hardship Fund.

ECHL fines Las Vegas for water-bottle incident.

The ECHL has decided to fine Las Vegas an undisclosed amount of money for actions related to the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty it received in the third period of Friday’s game at The Bank.

With 4:15 left in the game, Mike Egener delivered a hard hit to the Wranglers’ Mick Lawrence near the Vegas bench. Ned Lukacevic was demonstrably upset, grabbed a water bottle, and tossed it over two plexiglass partitions and onto the Reign bench.

Las Vegas 4, Reign 3, shootout.

Another night, another shootout.

This time, Las Vegas got the only goal and walked away with the victory.

For the second night in a row, Karl Taylor switched goaltenders, pulling Curtis Darling in favor of Mike Zacharias for the skills competition. Zacharias stopped four of five shooters, but it wasn’t enough. Joel Gistedt, who replaced an injured Michael Ouzas in the third period, stopped all five Reign shooters to seal the victory.

Jon Rheault scored for the second straight night and Tim Kraus and Sean O’Connor also had goals for the Reign. Mick Lawrence, Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner scored for the Wranglers. Ned Lukacevic had the only goal in the shootout.

Darling stopped 28 of 31 in regulation.

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

Reign 4, Las Vegas 3, shootout.

Jon Rheault had a goal, an assist and a shootout goal as the Reign returned the favor for the Wranglers’ shootout win Friday.

They returned the favor in the penalty-minutes column, too. A night after totaling 48 PIM on 24 infractions, the two teams upped it to 56 minutes on Saturday.

But the most memorable call in another wild game was made by Reign coach Karl Taylor, who pulled starter Curtis Darling in favor of Mike Zacharias to start the shootout. All Zacharias did was stop all five shooters he faced, allowing Rheault’s shootout goal to stand up and give the Reign the win.

The Reign (25-25-3-5, 58 points) now lead Las Vegas (25-25-4-3, 57 points) by a point for the seventh and final playoff position in the National Conference standings. The rubber match is set for 5 p.m. tomorrow at The Bank.

Zacharias had not played since a 15-minute relief appearance on Feb. 14. Taylor called it a “very difficult” decision, one based on a “gut feeling.”

Geoff Walker and David Walker scored in regulation for the Reign, who for the second straight night couldn’t hold an early lead. Goals by Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner wiped out the Reign’s 2-0 lead by scoring 76 seconds apart in the third period.

Geoff Walker then scored with 1:39 left in regulation to give Ontario a 3-2 lead, but Vegas’ Jerry Pollastrone scored with 18.5 seconds left to send it to overtime.

Darling made 26 saves in regulation, but Zacharias was credited with the victory, his fifth of the season and first since Jan. 23.

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

Las Vegas 7, Reign 6, shootout.

This game could be summed up in one word: Crazy.

It ended in the 12th round of the shootout when Jerry Pollastrone scored on Curtis Darling, and Tony Voce missed on the other end, ending the Reign’s team-record-tying win streak at six.

The Reign gained a point in the standings but gave up two, leaving both teams tied for the seventh and final playoff position in the National Conference standings. Technically, the Wranglers are in seventh place by virtue of the higher winning percentage.

It was only possible because of Vegas’ four goals in the third period, which negated a 5-2 lead by the Reign and sent the game to overtime.

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