This weekend the Reading Royals took on the Fort Wayne Komets in back-to-back games on home ice. After losing to Wheeling in their previous game, the Royals found themselves in last place of their division, and needed a win to get back on track. This is the first time the Royals and Komets have met since the Komets eliminated the Royals from the playoffs last year, and it will be the only two times they meet this season unless they meet again in the playoffs. So far this season, the Komets are in first place in their division. The Royals knew they were in for a tough two games.
The first period started with the Komets dominating the Royals with a strong forecheck. This led to lots of turnovers in the neutral zone by the Royals and several good scoring chances for the Komets. With the sustained pressure, Fort Wayne’s Mitchell Heard scored at 15:28 to take the lead. The Royals came back quickly though as Cam Reid scored just seconds later with assists from Adam Hughesman and Olivier Labelle. Reid later commented, “With a turnover on the forecheck, I took the puck to the net; it kind of hit their goalie’s stick, and then their D-man’s shin pads, and then found its way to the back of the net. So it was a pretty lucky one, but a good goal at the time.” About a minute after that, Mike Marcou scored a goal to give the Royals a 2-1 lead that they were able to keep through the end of the 1st period.
The second period saw the Komets outplay the Royals again. At 7:47 the Royals got a chance on the powerplay as Komets’ Mitchell Heard picked up a minor penalty. The power play turned out unsuccessful for the Royals, and the Komets came back to tie the game at 12:34 after Thomas Frazee scored. Fort Wayne’s Mike Embach would give the Komets a 3-2 lead by the end of the 2nd with only 1:20 left. The Royals hit the locker rooms with some work to do.
The 3rd period started with another blown power play for the Royals and then a goal for Fort Wayne by Paul Crowder. Halfway through the 3rd the Royals got another chance to tie the game as Komets’ Kaleigh Schrock was put in the box for slashing, and a minute later Komets’ Joey Leach was called for crosschecking giving the Royals a two man advantage. Even with a two man advantage, the Royals were unable to pick up a goal to get back in the game. Shortly after the Komets came back to full strength, Sean Wiles scored to lessen Fort Wayne’s two point lead. With about three minutes left, Coach Courville called for a time out and pulled the goalie Connor Knapp in hopes of tying the game and going into overtime. Unfortunately, the game ended with a Fort Wayne 4-3 win.
Saturday night was the Royals chance at revenge against the Komets. The Royals took the lead at 6:21 when Reading Forward Adam Hughesman scored against Fort Wayne goalie Sami Aittokallio. A minute and a half later, the Royals took advantage of a power play after Komets’ Paul Crowder received a two-minute penalty for slashing. Forward David Marshall claimed an unassisted goal. The Komets could not let the Royals go into the 2nd period with a two goal lead though, and scored with ten seconds left leaving the score at 2-1.
As the 2nd period started, the Royals were happy with their lead, but the Komets weren’t going to let that last. At 3:22, the Komets’ James Martin scored with assists from Cody Sol and Christian Ouellet. Realizing they had lost their lead, the Royals learned they had to step it up. Halfway through the second, the Royals regained their lead when Ryan Cruthers scored his first goal of the season. In the second half of the period, Cruthers would get stuck in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct. This led to Mitchell Heard’s goal which once again tied up the game, with a score of 3-3. By the end of the 2nd, the Royals would regain their lead due to a Fort Wayne penalty against Thomas Frazee for hooking. With only 34 seconds left, Pat Mullane scored his fourth goal of the season.
The 3rd period opened with Reading leading 4-3. At 6:59 they regained their two point lead when David Marshall scored his third goal of the season. Later, the Royals began to lose their lead again after Ian Watters got sent to the box for interference, allowing Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski to score. There was much back and forth, however, as Komets’ Joey Leach got two minutes for cross-checking leading to Adam Comrie scoring and regaining the Royals two point lead with a score of 6-4. Unfortunately, less than a minute later, Mitchell Heard scored a shorthanded goal which would later allow the Komets to close the gap once again. Fort Wayne’s Center Thomas Frazee tied up the score later at 15:19. From there the game only went downhill for the Royals as Ian Watters received a tripping minor leading to Cody Sol grabbing the game winning goal for the Komets. The final score was 7-6.
With their third straight loss, the Royals hit the locker room knowing they were going to have to work harder. Forward Sean Wiles stated, “I think the team needs to play a full 60-minute hockey game. We have these lulls where we get comfortable, and we kind of get away from our game plan a little bit. I think just putting together a good 60-minute solid game would be a step forward for us.”
If the Royals can get on the same page to make their systems work, stop getting too comfortable when they have the lead, and play a consistent 60-minute game, they should be able to turn things around and start winning some games. Forward Cam Reid stated, “I wouldn’t say so much that the chemistry is off, but our work ethic and certain parts of every game haven’t been consistent enough. We haven’t ridden out a whole game yet. We keep showing signs of it, which is good, but we keep having lapses where we get behind and can’t come back. We have to fix that pretty quick.”
After this weekend’s events, the Komets lead the Eastern Conference in 1st place while the Royals sit in last place in both the Eastern Conference and the Eastern Division. Next weekend, the Royals play both the Kalamazoo Wings and Toledo Walleye on the Road. Kalamazoo currently holds 2nd place in the Northern Division while Toledo holds 3rd place. The Royals will come home on Saturday, November 22nd and 23rd to face-off against Indianapolis Fuel who are currently ranked last in the Northern Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference.
In other news, the Royals have signed defenseman Michael Caruso to the team. Caruso previously played for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL last season and even made it up to the NHL for two games with the Florida Panthers in the 2012-2013 season. Coach Courville says, “There is a possibility he will be on the lineup here, but I don’t know how much he has been on the ice. He’s a truly American guy. He’s a defensive guy and a physical guy. He played a little bit in the NHL, so we are hoping he’s a good defenseman for us.” The Royals have also traded defenseman Colby Cohen to the Missouri Mavericks, activated forward Justin Daniels from the ECHL Reserve List; and placed forward Matt Hatch on the ECHL Reserve List. The Royals are hoping these changes will be beneficial for the team and lead them to some more wins.