It’s official: No more Victoria.

The ECHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the withdrawal of the Victoria Salmon Kings from the league, effectively killing the franchise.

The move seemed inevitable once S-Kings owner Graham Lee decided earlier this year to move the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins into Save-On Foods Memorial Centre, giving the arena three hockey tenants for next season (along with a British Columbia Hockey League team).

Reign president Justin Kemp said in an e-mail that it was “a relatively easy vote.” Interestingly, he said the Board voted during a conference call nearly a month ago, but the announcement was delayed until today.

The Salmon Kings players all become free agents. That figured to be the case anyway, since ECHL contracts only last one year. But for ECHL veterans like Chad Painchaud, Ryan Turek, P.J. Atherton, and others who called Victoria home last season, the future becomes a little less certain. Be assured that the league’s other coaches won’t mind having this extra time to recruit the Salmon Kings’ best players.

Still uncertain is the ECHL schedule for next season. A Loveland, Colorado-based CHL team has been rumored as a possible addition, but that could be mere speculation. If the Western Conference is indeed reduced to seven teams, that’s almost a one-third reduction in size from the time the Reign entered the league a short three years ago.

A reduction in Western Conference teams from eight to seven would result in big differences. The pool of players would become smaller and the level of competition figures to go up (again), but the effects of Repetitive Visiting Uniform Syndrome will be felt in Citizens Business Bank Arena and the other six buildings. Would the current playoff format change? Would more Eastern Conference teams be included on the schedule?

Those questions can’t be asked and answered until the number of teams is finalized, and that could be at least a month from now.

By all accounts, Victoria was a beautiful place for players to play and visit. Aesthetically the eight-team balance out West could be restored with the addition of another club.

But good luck replacing this.

Report: Colorado team could join ECHL, part II.

As promised, a follow-up to the recent report that the CHL’s Colorado Eagles could be joining the ECHL:

A league spokesperson declined to address the addition or subtraction of specific teams, which is to be expected since the schedule is still a work in progress. Reign president Justin Kemp has seen a draft of the schedule, but declined to go into details about whether Colorado or Victoria were on it. “I’m not given the opportunity to comment on the league, or other teams,” he said.

That said, here’s what we can report:

• The door hasn’t been officially shut on the Salmon Kings franchise by the ECHL. We don’t know whether the team would have to relocate, but with the Save-On-Foods Memorial Center already supporting a WHL and BCHL team next season, it would be hard to imagine trying to sell an ECHL team there, too.

• The expansion Chicago Express are definitely playing in the Eastern Conference. If the league wants to bring an additional team into the Western Conference to offset losing Victoria (and keep it an eight-team conference), Chicago isn’t a candidate – at least not right now.

• A finalized schedule should be released by the end of May or early June.

• That doesn’t necessarily mean the rumors will go away soon. An ECHL spokesperson said that in the past, teams have been added to the league even after the schedule was released to the public.

We’ll post more here when we know it.

Report: Colorado team could join ECHL.

Even before the Victoria Salmon Kings played what is assumed to be their final ECHL game, the rumor mill churned out a potential replacement.

According to a report in the Quad-City Times, the Central Hockey League’s Loveland-based Colorado Eagles could join the ECHL as early as next season. The report notes that the league is working on a 19- or 20-team schedule for next season. The Chicago Express will join the ECHL and bring the league to 20 teams, but losing the Salmon Kings will bring the number to 19.

Which is number 20?

From the Times:
Continue reading “Report: Colorado team could join ECHL.” »

Reign 4, Idaho 3.

The Reign aren’t dead yet.

Michael Pelech’s second goal of the game at 15:31 broke a 3-3 tie and lifted the Reign to a win over Idaho in a back-and-forth game in Boise. Combined with the Victoria Salmon Kings’ 2-1 loss to the Bakersfield Condors, the Reign remain mathematically alive for the final Western Conference playoff berth.

Chaz Johnson scored the Reign’s first two goals, and Beau Erickson stopped 40 of 43 shots with Jase Weslosky (lower-body injury) being spelled by emergency backup Tony Davenport.

Johnson’s wrist shot gave the Reign a 1-0 lead at 6:10 of the first period. Kael Mouillierat and Aki Seitsonen answered to give Idaho a 2-1 lead before Johnson evened the score with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season with only 24 seconds left in the second period.

Kyle Kraemer found Pelech for the go-ahead goal at 5:14 of the third period, but the lead was short-lived. Dustin Friesen netted the Steelheads’ second power-play goal of the game at 7:12 to tie the game at 3. Idaho, which leads the ECHL in power-play efficiency, finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

But Pelech came through with his eighth goal of the season after Kraemer was stood up by an Idaho defender in the offensive zone, and Pelech raced to the net with the loose puck.

Dusty Carlson stopped 20 of 24 for the Steelheads, who host the Reign at 6:10 p.m. Friday.

Victoria, which has now lost two in a row after winning back-to-back games, visits Stockton at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Stockton is 7-3-0 this season against the Salmon Kings and has won three straight.

The Reign must win, and need the Salmon Kings to lose in regulation, in order to keep their microscopic playoff hopes alive.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign claimed goalie Shane Connelly off waivers from Utah, likely as insurance for Weslosky.

The former University of Wisconsin standout has played for five ECHL teams in two professional seasons. In five games for Utah, Connelly went 1-2-0 with a 4.22 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. In 74 pro games, all at the ECHL level, he is 25-30-7-4 with a 3.26 GAA, .890 save percentage and five shutouts.

Bakersfield 3, Reign 1.

That sound coming from Bakersfield was the nail being hammered just a bit deeper into the Reign’s coffin.

Tonight’s loss to the Condors, combined with the Victoria Salmon Kings’ 5-2 win over the Utah Grizzlies, leaves the Reign (23-36-2-4, 52 points) nine points behind the Salmon Kings (29-32-1-2) for the final Western Conference playoff berth with seven games left in the regular season.

The Reign needed help to harbor any optimism about the playoffs — and got none from a Victoria team that has suddenly won two straight. They also got no help from a red-hot Condors squad that won its seventh straight game, and its 10th in 13 games against the Reign this season.

James McEwan scored the Reign’s only goal on a re-direction of a Luke Beaverson shot at 13:30 of the second period. Bobby Robins, Stephane Goulet and Phil Paquet scored the Bakersfield goals as Jase Weslosky stopped 35 of 38 shots. According to the unofficial stat sheet, the Reign were outshot 38-24.

After Friday’s turn of events it’s possible to see the end of the road: The Reign could be eliminated as early as next Wednesday, when they begin a three-game series in Idaho and the Salmon Kings visit Bakersfield.

The Reign play the Condors again at 7 p.m. Saturday. Utah and Victoria play again Saturday, too.

Victoria 8, Reign 4.

The Reign’s two-game winning streak came crashing down Wednesday in Victoria, British Columbia with an 8-4 loss to the Salmon Kings. The eight goals allowed represent a season high and all were charged to goalie Kellen Briggs, who stopped 37 of 45 shots.

The Reign never led in the game but were still within striking distance after two periods, trailing 3-2 on a power-play goal by Lane Caffaro and an even-strength tally by Jeff Corey.

Yet they also failed to capitalize on a five-minute long power play late in the second, incurred when Victoria forward Rick Cleaver was charged with a major penalty for an illegal check to the head of Corey.

The floodgates opened in the third period, when Painchaud and former Reign forward Tim Kraus scored 25 seconds apart to make it 5-2. Nine seconds after Kraus’ goal, Brett O’Malley scored for the Reign to make it 5-3 at 8:44.

Reign defenseman Doug Krantz gave the Salmon Kings a 5-minute power play of their own when he was hit with a kneeing major and a game misconduct at 9:47. Victoria took advantage, getting a pair of goals to make it 7-3 before Alex Bourret answered with a short-handed goal for the Reign.

Painchaud completed the scoring with 4:38 left in the game.

The Reign (10-17-0-1) travel to Anchorage for a two-game series with the Alaska Aces beginning Friday.

Caffaro (goal, assist), O’Malley (goal), Corey (goal, assist), Pat Bowen and Dusty Collins were the only plus players for the Reign. Kyle Kraemer added an assist on Corey’s team-leading 11th goal of the season.

Rob Hennigar (four assists) and Matt Stefanishion (goal, three assists) had four-point games for Victoria, and Kraus added two assists to go along with his first goal of the season.

Tim Kraus signs with Victoria Salmon Kings.

Former Reign forward Tim Kraus is joining the Victoria Salmon Kings.

An original member of the inaugural Reign squad, Kraus is no stranger to British Columbia. He spent four years playing for the nearby Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League and has often referred to the area as his “second home.” That made Kraus’ choice a bit easier; he said he also had an offer from the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.

“I love Vancouver,” he said. “I still have plenty of family and friends up there.”

Kraus, who was placed on waivers Friday, had no goals and six assists in 16 games this season for the Reign. He’ll get two quick chances to face his former team on Dec. 28 and 29 in Victoria, but the two teams don’t meet again the rest of the season.

The Salmon Kings (10-12-1-2) visit the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday and Friday.

Victoria 4, Reign 3.

It’s still early in the ECHL season, but the Victoria Salmon Kings seem to have the Reign’s number.

The S-Kings won for the fourth time in four meetings between the teams, 4-3 before 5,657 at The Bank on Friday night. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Reign (5-7-0-1), who continue their six-game homestand tonight against the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Chaz Johnson, Brett O’Malley and Aaron Lewdaniuk scored for the Reign, with Lewadniuk’s goal pulling the Reign within 4-3 at the 4-minute mark of the third period. Kellen Briggs (24 saves) was pulled for an extra attacker late in the third period — and the Reign had a brief 6-on-4 power play thanks to a Victoria penalty with 13 seconds left — but the Reign couldn’t convert.

After Johnson’s goal at 5:23 opened the scoring, Matt Stefanishion and Ryan MacMurchy answered with goals 39 seconds apart in the first period to give Victoria a 2-1 lead. O’Malley tied the game on a severe-angle shot with 1:12 left in the first period for his first professional goal.

The Salmon Kings took a 4-2 lead on second-period goals by Rick Cleaver and Michael Wilson.

Reign 2, Alaska 1.

Power-play goals by center Dusty Collins and defenseman David Walker gave the Reign a 2-1 win Sunday, completing three-game road sweep of the Alaska Aces.

Collins, playing his fifth game of the ECHL season, scored his first goal of the season 44 seconds into the middle period. Since returning from the American Hockey League, the veteran has a goal and four assists.

Walker added an insurance goal at 16:50, the first of the season for the team captain. That proved crucial when Aces winger Wes Goldie scored with 40 seconds left in the game to provide the final score.

Goaltender Kellen Briggs started all three games of the series in goal and stopped 30 of 31 shots. Defenseman Eric Doyle had two assists in his third game back from an upper-body injury, giving him six points (goal, five assists) in seven games this season. Jeff Corey and Jordan Morrison also had assists.

The Reign (5-6-0-1) went 2-for-4 on the power play and killed all three man-advantage shifts for the Aces (7-4-1-0), who entered the series with the best record in the Western Conference.

The Reign return home for a six-game homestand beginning Friday against the Victoria Salmon Kings.

Victoria 4, Reign 1.

The back-to-back wins in Stockton to start the season are a distant memory, and the Reign are 2-4-1 after the Salmon Kings completed a three-game sweep on Saturday. They’ll come back to Ontario with fewer points in the standings than all but two teams in the ECHL’s Western Conference.

The Reign fell behind 1-0 at 10:03 of the first period on a goal by Victoria’s Matt Siddall. Aaron Lewadniuk’s second goal of the season, off assists from forwards Pierre-Andre Bureau and Jeff Corey, tied the game at 1 at 3:55 of the second period.

Victoria took the lead less than two minutes later on Siddall’s second goal of the contest. Derek Couture made it 3-1 at 5:14 of the third period and Kiel McLeod scored into an empty net late to provide the final score.

The Reign continued their power play drought with an 0-for-5 night on the man advantage, while holding the Salmon Kings 0-for-4.

Center Jon Francisco, who was injured in Friday’s 5-2 loss, did not play. Kellen Briggs stopped 21 of 24 shots in his third start on the road trip.

The Alaska Aces visit The Bank on Thursday and Saturday before the Reign travel to Anchorage.