Kings affiliate action – notes from Reign opening weekend

In what could be classified as a franchise reboot, the Ontario Reign took to the ice this weekend for a pair of home games to kick off the new season.

Just about everything was new, except the jerseys.

Gone was fiery and temperamental head coach Karl Taylor and in was the seemingly always jolly Jason Christie. Helping him behind the bench was former Kings defenseman and assistant coach Mark Hardy.

On the roster, only a small handful of players remain from last season. It’s a completely new look team, that now includes Kings goaltending prospect JF Berube as the number one goalie.

Saturday afternoon the Reign also added Darcy Kuemper to the line-up. The 6-foot-4 goaltender was drafted by Minnesota in the sixth round of the 2009 draft and remains under contract to the Wild. However, due to them not having an ECHL affiliate this year (and a full roster in the AHL), Christie was able to work out a deal for Kuemper to play in Ontario. He comes in after a strong season last year, where he was the top goalie in the WHL.

Friday night’s game was a 5-4 loss to the two-time defending champions of the Pacific Division, the Bakersfield Condors. Saturday saw the team rebound and pick up a 3-2 victory – after 11 rounds of a shootout – over their old nemesis, the Stockton Thunder.

Below are some exclusive quotes a few of the notables provided MayorsManor…

Berube on his first game back in goal (Friday) after hip surgery in April – “I had some trouble getting into the game. I felt like my focus wasn’t there. I wasn’t too happy after the game, with my performance. Of course, I wanted to do great for my first game. But, there’s some positive things there that I’ll try to build on. I felt like I was moving well and I didn’t feel out of shape. It was my focus. You have to get back into your game habits and that’s where I think I had a little bit of trouble.”

Christie on Berube’s play – “He played great. I thought he made some key saves. To get his first game under his belt, that was a plus. With the surgery and stuff, he hasn’t really played in a game in (six) months. He’s going to have jitters, plus the big crowd. So, I thought he handled it well and handled it like a pro. For a guy who hadn’t played in (six) months, he battled hard.”

Christie on his developing relationship with Hardy – “We’re two good people, who love the game. We love coaching and being around the guys. That’s the number one thing I noticed right away, the passion that we both have.”

Hardy on his feelings when the puck dropped Friday night, marking his return to hockey – “I had butterflies. I didn’t know how I was going to be before the game. The butterflies took over and it was just an awesome feeling to be back behind the bench. I really thank the Kemps and Jason Christie for bringing me back into the hockey part of it because it’s my love and I really missed it.”

Kuemper on playing Kings prospect Linden Vey back in the WHL – “He was in our division, so we played him a lot. Every time he got the puck in the offensive zone, I had to be ready. He’s a real dangerous threat. He’s a great player with a great skill set. It’s tough to shut a guy like that down.”

Kuemper on playing Kings prospect Brandon Kozun in the WHL – “He’s a speedy little guy who was all over the ice. He just had a knack for making plays.”

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