Saturday night was alright for fighting as proven by the Royals home opener. Fur was flying as the Royals took on the Elmira Jackals after beating them 6-5 in a shootout on Elmira turf the night before. With 6,352 fans in the house, hoping to see what the new season and new affiliation would bring, the Royals put on a show and crushed the Jackals 5-1.
Fans got their first glimpse of a new scoreboard and sound system tonight. Flyer’s alumni Brian Propp visited and signed autographs for appreciative fans. The Lancaster Firebirds and the Bristol Blazers Youth Amateur hockey teams also attended. They stood on the ice with the Royals during the National Anthem and played each other during the first intermission. The Royals also wore orange jerseys that were later auctioned off to celebrate their new affiliation with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Philadelphia Flyers.
As the puck dropped, fans started revving up the team with a “Let’s Go Royals” chant. Within minutes, the rivalries began. At two minutes and twenty-five seconds into the first period, penalties began with an unsportmanlike conduct call on Ryan Cruthers and a hooking call on Elmira’s Nick Tuzzolino. Less than two minutes later, Adam Comrie and Elmira’s Taylor Stefishen went at it and each received five for fighting. Barely a minute after that, Brett Flemming and Elmira’s Matt MacKenzie got five for fighting as well after some trouble near the bench. After that, Derek Mathers got a two minute penalty for roughing after some trouble with Matt Tassone from Elmira.
With only three minutes left in the 1st, Olivier Labelle gave the Royals a 1-0 lead with two assists from Adam Hughesman and Cam Reid. The Royals later returned to the locker room as Coach Larry Courville got the team fired up, “Well, the only thing we talked about after the first was a little more about execution. They players were a little nervous. We didn’t come out with as much jump as I would have liked to in the first. I asked the guys to play a little more defensive minded to protect our goaltender a little more; and I thought we did that. We didn’t create as many chances to score, but once we started executing at our peak, we went over little things that could help us offensively, and I thought the guys did a good job in the second.”
The talk in the locker room paid off in the second, as the Royals hit the ice fired up and ready to play. At four minutes and eighteen seconds in, Cam Reid made fans happy by winning them all Jr. Deluxe burgers from Sonic by scoring within the first seven minutes of the second period. Four minutes later, Brock Higgs snuck the puck in, just past Elmira’s goal line as fans hesitated a few seconds to find out whether the puck actually went in or not. Within the next two minutes, there were two close shots that almost went in. However, the third time was the charm as Pat Mullane shot one in while near the net.
With the Royals claiming a four point lead and Elmira feeling the pressure, the rivalries started up again near the end of the second period. Royal’s Brett Flemming and Jackal’s Lucas Bloodoff got another five minutes for fighting. This was one of the most intense fights of the night as the players fell to the ice. With that, the Royals headed back to the locker rooms with a striking four point lead.
In the third period, the Jackals came back to the ice trying to catch up to the Royals. At seventeen minutes and twenty-five seconds, Elmira took a goal off of Royals goalie Connor Knapp. Shortly after however, they gave the Royals a power play after Jackal’s Zach Tolkinen received a two minute penalty for interference. The Royals quickly took up the opportunity as Zach Davies scored about a minute later making the score 5-1.
In the second half of the 3rd period, the Royals gained a two man advantage after Elmira’s Lucas Bloodoff was called for a high stick and Nick Tuzzolino got called for slashing and a ten-minute misconduct. The royals were not able to make use of this two man advantage, but still won the game with a final score of 5-1.
Overall, Coach Larry Courville was happy with the win. He said “Well, I liked tonight as we played a better defensive game, I thought. We hadn’t been consistent all sixty minutes. I thought we had a lot better game in us, but I thought it was better than the first two games.” He also believes that this win helped to bring the team together. “I think winning gives you that intensity, team bonding and team togetherness. Being there for your teammate is important and that is what happened early in the first period with a few fights. Little things like that go a long way in the locker room. That’s what the team wants: a team that wants to bond. We want to get close together. We want to hang out, and so far it’s been pretty good.”
The three stars of the game were voted as Forward Cam Reid in first with one goal and two assists, Forward Olivier Labelle in second with one goal and one assist, and Goalie Connor Knapp in third with many great saves. Labelle later said, “Tonight was our best night as far as moving the puck. We’ll see what Larry wants, and so far, so good.”
The Royals are sure to be getting tired of Elmira as they are set play the Jackals again Sunday evening. This will be the fifth time in a row they will be meeting with the Jackals. They played Elmira twice in the preseason and twice in the official season so far. Fans will also get a chance to meet the new team at a post-game skate.
Fans are sure to see another exciting game and rivalries are likely to show up once again. Flemming discusses the fans long time rivalry with Elmira, “I think they’ve hated them since I got here. It’s my third year, so I don’t know how long they’ve hated Elmira. I think they must play them a lot, and I mean it’s always nice to have your fans behind you. They were unbelievable. I think there was over 6,000 tonight, so we love that. They were nice and loud as always, and we look forward to having everyone out again.”