Gabriel Levesque update.

Stockton Thunder center Gabriel Levesque remained in a hospital Thursday morning, and could face season-ending hip surgery after being hit into the boards in the Reign’s 4-2 win Wednesday.

Thunder coach Matt Thomas said that “they’re still trying to figure out exactly the overall seriousness of it but the early diagnosis doesn’t look promising.” Levesque is expected to be released sometime today and then will meet with his team doctor to determine if surgery is necessary.

“The good thing is it’s not something that required emergency surgery,” Thomas said. “That’s a positive thing, in terms of the ability to heal from it.”

Levesque left Citizens Business Bank Arena on a gurney, lying on his left side — not his back –¬†and looking dazed, if not unconscious. Thomas said he didn’t know if Levesque lost consciousness, only that the 21-year-old center “was in a lot of pain. Serious pain.”

Thomas also said that a video review showed that the initial high-stick that clipped Levesque in the face came from Reign left wing Geoff Irwin, not that of right wing Derek Couture, who received a high-sticking penalty on the play. Couture delivered the hard hit immediately after Levesque was high-sticked and let go of the puck.

Asked if it was a clean hit, Thomas said: “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think it was just because it was more of a — it wasn’t a body check. It was like he pushed him. Is it a dirty hit? I don’t know. It’s a push. I’m sure Couture didn’t want to hurt him, but Levesque was in a bad spot when he got pushed.”

Reign 4, Stockton 2.

The Reign had a full week off since their last game and the practice seemed to pay off. They never trailed in their 4-2 win Friday, getting goals from Steven Tarasuk, C.J. Stretch, Matt Tassone and Francois Brisebois. Darcy Kuemper allowed a pair of breakaway goals to Ian O’Connor but made all the routine saves, and one amazing save in the final minute, among his 21 stops.

The power play finished 2-for-4 on the goals by Tarasuk and Stretch — the first goal of the year for both players — after going 2-for-22 to start the season. Dylan Yeo had two assists and Tassone, Tarasuk, Brisebois, Stretch, Brady Calla and Chris Huxley (making his Reign debut) had one assist each. Huxley was paired with Vincent LoVerde and both defensemen finished plus-2 for the game.

Christie had words of praise for Huxley, as well as a strong overall forechecking effort that stifled Stockton at even strength.

Derek Couture fought Garet Hunt in the first period (advantage: Couture), Shayne Neigum fought O’Connor in the second period (advantage: O’Connor), and Stretch nearly came to blows with Jordan Fulton late in the first period. A scrum just after the final horn sounded was broken up before it could fully materialize.

J-F Berube gets the start tomorrow.

Check out tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin for more. Here’s the official scoresheet.

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:

Continue reading

Reign 2, Stockton 1, OT.

David Walker’s backdoor goal 2:01 into overtime lifted the Reign to a victory in a strange game at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Shawn Collymore had the Reign’s other goal – at least, he was credited with the goal by the official scorer – and Beau Erickson had some highlight-reel saves in a solid 29-save performance.

Even the one goal he allowed, to Fraser Clair at 12:22 of the third period, was controversial.

As Erickson described it: “It was a 4-on-2 coming my way. I think Freddy (Jason Fredricks) went down to block it. It went off him and it came to me, bouncing, kind of like the play before. It bounced off and it went off my pad. As I was watching, the net looked like it was off. It went inside the net. They called it a goal.”

The officials had a lengthy discussion at the scorer’s table, and a conference with the off-ice official standing behind the goal, but there wasn’t enough to change the initial ruling of a good goal.

Some more oddities from tonight’s game:
Continue reading

Stockton 4, Reign 2.

All of the hard hits and unbridled energy of the Reign’s 4-3 win Saturday against Bakersfield had left the building by Wednesday.

Karl Taylor described the 4-2 loss to Stockton, in so many words, as a step backwards. It was tough to disagree. The first 12 minutes of the second period saw the Reign go from up 1-0 to down 3-1, and even a 37-shot effort against Bryan Pitton wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.

Alex Bourret and Michael Pelech scored the goals, and Mike Zacharias made 31 saves.

More details in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
Continue reading

Getting ahead of ourselves.

When the Reign host the Stockton Thunder tomorrow, expect to see more changes on the visitor’s bench than the home bench.

Stockton last visited CBBA on Jan. 23, a game that saw former Reign goalie Garrett Zemlak stop 26 of 28 shots in a 4-2 Thunder win. Zemlak has since been traded to the Elmira Jackals — who play the Reign in three straight games beginning Friday — for forward Tyler Donati, who led the ECHL in scoring last season.

One problem: Donati couldn’t pass his physical, which revealed a shoulder injury that required surgery. So that trade was nullified, Zemlak stayed in Elmira, and the Thunder received defenseman Jody Pederson instead. Pederson had a goal and an assist in the Thunder’s last game, a 3-2 win Saturday against the Utah Grizzlies.

Expect Oilers prospect Bryan Pitton to start in goal; Sharks prospect Tyson Sexsmith was recalled to the AHL on Monday and the Thunder signed Matt Pamidi as their emergency backup today.

As expected, the Reign didn’t sneak in any foreign players ahead of yesterday’s deadline, and have stayed off the transactions wire since beating Bakersfield 4-3 on Saturday. Shawn Germain (hand) practiced with the team Tuesday and is day-to-day. He can come off 3-day IR and play tomorrow if he’s healthy. Expect an update after the morning skate.

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.

Stockton 7, Reign 2.

Coming off their first shutout of the season, the Reign surrendered seven goals – one off their season high – and their modest four-game point streak came to an end in a flurry of fisticuffs Friday at Stockton Arena.

There were plenty of goals, but also seven fights – two by Doug Krantz (against Craig Valette and Jordan Foreman), and one each for David Walker, Aaron Lewadniuk, Michael Pelech, Luke Beaverson and Chaz Johnson. Garet Hunt and Jordan Fulton were involved in two fights each for Stockton.

Trailing 3-2 on goals by Shawn Collymore and Jordan Morrison heading into the final period, the Reign surrendered two goals in the first two minutes. Stockton scored twice more, at 12:53 and 16:34, and four fights broke out after that.

The Reign (13-23-0-2) were outshot 14-5 in the final period, which didn’t make life easy on Beau Erickson. The goalie was in net for all seven Thunder goals and stopped 24 shots. Mike Zacharias served as the backup in his return to the Reign.

The Thunder (19-11-2-4) have won six straight and are averaging 4.8 goals per game during the streak. The teams meet again tomorrow at Stockton Arena before concluding the 3-in-3 in Ontario on Sunday.

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.