Zacharias out, Morton released.

Mike Zacharias was placed on waivers today, and the Reign will head to Las Vegas tonight with goalies Jase Weslosky and Beau Erickson on the active roster.

Given the starter’s job after Erickson dislocated his sacrociliac joint in a game on March 4, Zacharias could not take advantage of the opportunity. He lost his last three starts while posting a 5.69 goals-against average, which prompted Taylor to trade for Weslosky at last Friday’s deadline.

Overall, Zacharias went 4-9-1-1 with a 3.75 GAA after the Reign claimed him off waivers.

Also Thursday, the Reign released Alex Morton from his amateur tryout contract. The rookie left wing from Fredonia State picked up an assist in his pro debut, but played limited minutes in his only three games with the Reign.

The Reign play the Wranglers at Orleans Arena at 7 p.m. tonight.

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 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:
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Utah 5, Reign 1.

Tom May and the Utah Grizzlies capitalized on 10 power plays in a penalty-filled Reign loss in West Valley City.

May had three of the Grizzlies’ four power-play goals in a game that saw the Reign go 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

Goalie Mike Zacharias faced a 48-shot barrage and stopped 43 with last night’s starter, Beau Erickson, out due to injury. Oliver Freij, a local college student, served as the emergency backup.

James McEwan had 22 of the Reign’s 62 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct and a match penalty for fighting at 8:14 of the second period. Alex Bourret and Giffen Nyren fought twice; Jordan Hill fought former Reign defenseman Brian Kilburg; and Kyle Kraemer fought Marcus Carroll.

Utah collected 56 penalty minutes of its own in the final meeting between the two teams this season. Ryley Grantham, who had not collected a single penalty minute in his three previous games with the Grizzlies, was awarded 16 in a single third-period altercation with Luke Beaverson.

Defenseman Pat Bowen scored the Reign’s lone goal, at the end of an odd-man rush at 7:41 of the second period.

The scoresheet changed roughly a dozen times within a half-hour of last night’s game, so take this link with a grain of salt.

The Victoria Salmon Kings (27-2-91-2) lost 5-2 to the Bakersfield Condors to remain nine points ahead of the Reign (21-33-2-4, 48 points) in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The clock is ticking on the Reign’s season – they have 12 games left, Victoria has 13 left, and they need to make up at least nine points. Those odds are beyond long.

The Reign get four days off before hosting the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday.

Reign 3, Utah 2.

Jordan Hill’s power-play goal at 12:09 of the third period lifted the Reign to a 3-2 road win over the Utah Grizzlies. C.J. Stretch and Alex Bourret also scored for the Reign, who snapped a three-game winning losing streak.

David Walker, who returned to the lineup after missing a game with a lower-body injury, collected the assist on Hill’s goal, his second helper of the game. Bourret, Jordan Morrison and Dusty Collins also had assists.

The victory allowed the Reign (21-32-24) to temporarily move nine points behind the seventh-place Victoria Salmon Kings in the Western Conference standings. Victoria is currently playing the Bakersfield Condors.

The Reign moved to 4-5-1 in 10 games against the Grizzlies this season, with the 11th and final game tomorrow in West Valley City.

Correction: We had it wrong earlier by virtue of a scorer’s error. Beau Erickson allowed the Reign’s first two goals before coming off when he was injured in a third-period collision with a Utah player. Mike Zacharias stopped 6 of 6 shots in relief and was credited with the win.

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:

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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 4, Idaho 3.

The Reign’s 3-2 deficit in third period wasn’t too much to overcome on Wednesday, and they can only hope their six-point deficit in the standings isn’t too large, either.

Clearly, the Reign are a team in the mood for comebacks. Jordan Morrison’s goal with 4:50 left in the third period, and an overtime goal by Kyle Kraemer, lifted them to a 4-3 win over Idaho before an announced crowd of 6,644 at CBBA. Mike Zacharias (10-11-3-3) stopped 36 of 39 shots to win his second straight start.

Kraemer also scored a power-play goal in the first period and Justin Taylor scored at 7:25 of the second to give the Reign a 2-0 lead. Idaho went ahead on unanswered goals by Cody Purves, Mark Derlago and Junior Lessard.

The Reign went 2-for-3 on the power play and also killed off a pair of third-period power plays after Purves scored on the Steelheads’ first man-advantage shift of the game.

The Victoria Salmon Kings (24-27-1-2, 51 points) still hold the seventh and final playoff position in the Western Conference, six points ahead of the Reign (20-30-2-3, 45 points). The Salmon Kings have one game in hand, but the pressure is on them now to beat Utah in their next game Friday.

A few more notes:
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Reign 4, Bakersfield 2.

Playing their third game in three days, the Reign turned in their only win of the weekend in Bakersfield.

Aaron Lewadniuk, Shawn Germain, David Walker and Chaz Johnson scored goals on Josh Tordjman (20 saves), and Reign goalie Mike Zacharias stopped 49 shots to match Beau Erickson’s season-high total from two days earlier.

Jordan Morrison had three assists, including pretty feeds to set up Johnson and Germain on the breakaway. Justin Taylor had a pair of assists, and Kyle Kraemer and Michael Pelech had one helper each.

Playing his first game of the weekend, Zacharias succeeded against the same barrage of shots that Erickson saw Friday and Saturday. The Condors had their share of odd-man rushes (while also surrendering a few to the Reign), but Zacharias didn’t seem to face the same amount of net-front pressure that kept Erickson from seeing the puck in a 7-3 loss the night before.

Considering Bakersfield registered 157 shots on goal this weekend, the Reign were lucky to escape with three points. By going 1-1-1, the Reign (19-30-2-3, 43 points) lost a
point in the standings to sixth-place Bakersfield (26-24-2-1, 55 points)
but gained a point on seventh-place Victoria (24-27-1-2, 51 points).

The Salmon Kings were shut out 4-0 in Stockton on Sunday.

A few more notes:
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