Tough choices in goal, on defense.

Expect a starting goalie matchup of Beau Erickson for the Reign and Bryan Pitton for the Stockton Thunder, based on the looks of things at the morning skate for both teams today at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

Erickson was in goal for wins Friday and Saturday against Elmira, while Mike Zacharias took the only loss of the weekend. But Erickson won despite allowing nine goals in the two games, while Zacharias only allowed two goals in the loss.

Reign coach Karl Taylor is hoping one goalie will make the decision-making process easier.

“We’re trying to get someone to take the ball and run with it. We prefer to have one guy,” Taylor said. “We’ll see.”
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Elmira 3, Reign 1.

All good things – like winning streaks and interconference series – must come to an end.

Clearly tired at the end of their third game in three nights, and fourth in five days, the Reign sputtered to a 3-1 loss in their series finale against Elmira. The Reign started strong but managed just four shots in the third period and couldn’t convert on the power play after the first period.

The Jackals halted their four-game losing streak on the strength of two goals by Jason Bailey and another by Patrick Coulombe, who potted the game-winner during a 4-on-3 power play with 1:43 left in the third period. Bailey’s goal into an empty net with 3.2 seconds left completed the scoring.

Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s only goal by deflecting a point shot by David Walker past TImo Pielmeier at 8:58 of the first period.

Mike Zacharias stopped 32 in one of those puzzling games for a goalie. Two fairly straightforward shots, by Bailey in the first period and Coulombe in the third, got past him. The rest of the game, facing one breakaway after another, he was perfect – strong positionally and when he needed to move laterally in the crease.

More details in tomorrow’s editions.
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Reign 4, Bakersfield 3.

The Reign won at home, and it was really no secret why. Between the three teeth Brett O’Malley left on the ice, a long and courageous fight by David Walker late in the third period, and plenty of blocked shots along the way, the effort was apparent all over the ice.

“We need to have that effort,” coach Karl Taylor said. “That extra 5, 10 percent was there tonight. I thought Bako played well. It was an entertaining game. That’s what it’s all about. There was a lot of sacrifice on the ice by the guys tonight.”

Jordan Morrison’s second-chance goal waith 8:32 left in the third period ended up being the game-winner. The Reign outshot the Condors 39-32, killed all three Bakersfield penalties, and got a solid 29-save performance from Mike Zacharias.

Morrison, Chaz Johnson and Alex Bourret each had a goal and an assist, Shawn Collymore had a pair of assists and Kyle Kraemer scored his second goal in as many games.

A few more notes that didn’t make tomorrow’s story:
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Idaho 2, Reign 1, OT.

Aki Seitsonen’s goal with 5 seconds left in overtime lifted the Idaho Steelheads to a 2-1 win over the Reign before an announced crowd of 3,261 at Qwest Arena.

Playing their second overtime game in as many nights, the Reign salvaged a point to finish their four-game swing through the Mountain Division 1-1-2.

Mike Zacharias probably deserved better. Playing his first game since the All-Star break, the second-year goaltender stopped 33 of 35 shots against his former teammates, including one on Marty Flichel’s breakaway putback attempt at 3:01 of overtime that momentarily caused the goal judge to light the lamp.

It was one of many clutch saves in a game in which the Reign were outshot 31-22. James McEwan’s first goal of the season, at 4:23 of the first period, was their only success against Idaho goalie Tyler Beskorowany (21 saves). McEwan also had a fight in the first period, but was denied the Gordie Howe hat trick in an otherwise uneventful game for the Reign. Both teams finished 0-for-3 on the power play.

The Reign visit Bakersfield on Friday before playing six straight home games.

As we suggested in this space yesterday, the Reign will need to improve their home record (4-15-0-1) drastically before they can feel comfortable gaining four of a possible eight points on the road. However, considering the quality of their opponents — Utah and Idaho are a close 1-2 in the Mountain Division standings — we may be seeing signs of progress.

Stockton 4, Reign 2.

The third period wasn’t the problem. The penalty-kill was.

Stockton scored on its first three power plays en route to a 4-2 win to cap a three-game weekend sweep of the Reign at CBBA.

Shawn Collymore scored both Reign goals, both on the power
play, both the result of persistence with pucks in the crease against
Garrett Zemlak. Zemlak, who started the season with the Reign, stopped
26 shots and even got into a fight late in the second period.

Mike Zacharias stopped 27 of 30 for the Reign. He was great at times, but let in a soft goal by Ryan Constant in the second period that proved to be the game-winner.

Another player who started the season in Ontario, Pierre-Andre Bureau, had an empty-net goal and two assists for the Thunder.

Shawn Germain missed the game to attend a firefighting class in Canada. Doug Krantz filled in on the blue line (and played fairly well). James McEwan also got back into the lineup and engaged in two highly entertaining fights.

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

Stockton 4, Reign 1.

The third period doomed the Reign for the second straight night, as the red-hot Stockton Thunder rolled to their seventh straight win Saturday at Stockton Arena.

A 1-1 game was blown open on third-period goals by Craig Valette (3:08), Jesse Gimblett (4:51) and Jarrett Konkle (17:20). That spoiled the return of Mike Zacharias to the Reign, after the goalie was claimed off waivers earlier in the week.

Wearing his familiar black mask, Zacharias stopped 30 shots, but got no help from a Reign attack that was outshot 34-15.

Reign coach Karl Taylor adjusted his line combinations after Friday’s 7-2 loss, a game in which the Thunder scored four goals in the final period. Left wing Alex Bourret and center Jordan Morrison were broken up for the first time since Bourret arrived from the Asian League. Bourret skated with C.J. Stretch at center at Chaz Johnson at right wing; Morrison centered Shawn Collymore and Kyle Kraemer; and Michael Pelech centered Brett O’Malley and Aaron Lewadniuk.

Only a wrister by defenseman Luke Beaverson, at 12:53 of the first period, was able to elude Bryan Pitton (14 saves). It was the third goal of the year for Beaverson, and his first after spending almost a month on injured reserve with a lower-body ailment.

The Reign’s last big chance came with 6:15 left in a 3-1 game, when Jim McKenzie was hit with a 2-minute tripping penalty. With 38 seconds left in the power play, however, Johnson was penalized for slashing, and Lane Caffaro was whistled for high-sticking 49 seconds later. The ensuing power play led to Stockton’s fourth goal – the Thunder’s only goal in four man-advantage shifts.

The two teams meet again at CBBA on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Some brief goalie notes. Update.

It’s two and a half hours before game time in Stockton, and the Reign still have three goalies. To my knowledge.

We will probably learn the fate of Alex Petizian within the next 24 hours. Mike Zacharias and Beau Erickson would seem to be the chosen tandem, and Petizian could either wind up on IR or the waiver wire come Saturday.

In the meantime, the Martin Jones bandwagon certainly seems to be gaining followers. Check out this piece on NHL.com. Jones, who began the season with the Reign and won his first professional game against the Stockton Thunder, was named to the AHL All-Star team earlier this month.

5:30 p.m. update: Petizian is going on 3-day IR, with Zacharias and Beau Erickson the active goalies tonight in Stockton. Also, James McEwan (lower-body) has been transferred to 7-day IR.

Mike Zacharias returns.

One of the four goalies the Reign began the season with returned today, when Mike Zacharias was claimed off waivers a day after being let go by the Idaho Steelheads.

Zacharias, 25, went 10-6-3 with a 3.28 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage last season with the Reign. He returned for training camp, but was cut when Karl Taylor decided to go with an opening-day tandem of Kellen Briggs and Kings prospect Martin Jones.

Zacharias was traded to the Steelheads and went 7-7-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average (14th in the ECHL) and .907 save percentage. Those numbers suffered from an 0-4-3 streak dating back to Dec. 17, during which his goals-against average was 3.70.

He was deemed the odd man out when Dallas Stars goalie prospect Tyler Beskorowany was re-assigned to Idaho, a Stars affiliate. The Steelheads’ other goalie, Jase Weslosky, began the season as an emergency backup, but signed a standard contract in December and wound up playing all nine of the Steelheads’ games this month.

No corresponding transactions have been officially announced, but expect Alex Petizian to be the odd man out – whether that means a spot on IR or the waiver wire is unknown. Beau Erickson just recorded the first shutout by a Reign goalie this season on Wednesday, and is 3-0-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average in his last four starts.

The skinny on Alex Petizian.

Alex Petizian’s story is not unusual for a rookie minor-league goalie, except that he’s had to wait an unusually long time to start his pro career on solid footing.

Recall that the Reign signed goalies Mike Zacharias and Garrett Zemlak in the preseason; both wound up being traded to clear room for Martin Jones (who was on an NHL contract) and Kellen Briggs (previously an established starter in the league). All of this transpired before the regular season began, and Zacharias and Zemlak are seeing a lot of playing time for Idaho and Stockton, respectively.

Similarly, Petizian signed with the Alaska Aces over the summer but still hasn’t appeared in an ECHL game this season. Veteran Gerald Coleman was assigned to the Aces late in the preseason by the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen; Adam Courchaine was later assigned to Alaska by the NHL’s Boston Bruins. Petizian had been buried on the depth chart ever since.
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Special goalie duel in Stockton.

Here’s the link to today’s story about Reign defenseman Eric Doyle (and his mighty moustache): http://www.sbsun.com/sports/ci_16654606.

Here’s another link to check out: http://echl.com/stats/official-game-report.php?game_id=8124.

You ought to recognize the two goalies who sent a 2-2 game between the Stockton Thunder and Idaho Steelheads into a shootout – both Garrett Zemlak (Stockton) and Mike Zacharias (Idaho) began training camp with the Reign. It’s a testament to their talent, and the fluctuating nature of an ECHL roster, that both were starting for opposing Western Conference teams tonight.

If there were a bigger surprise, it’s that Zacharias didn’t win. The Reign’s shootout hero last season allowed two Stockton goals, while Zemlak allowed only one goal to win the skills competition in his first game with the Thunder.

Stockton has gone on an 8-0-3 run since opening night – when the Reign beat them in their own building – to grab a share of the best record in the league.