(photo: Purdon Photography, Royals Hockey)
After falling to Elmira 3-2 in a shootout on Friday, the Royals met up with Indy Fuel for the first time in history this season on Saturday and Sunday. Santander Arena was packed Saturday as 6,209 fans filled the arena to support both the Royals and the players of the Army and Navy teams who played before the Royals faced off. Goalie Connor Knapp was back in the net Saturday night after coach Larry Courville decided to try playing Martin Ouellette on Friday’s game against Elmira.
The first period saw little to no action. There were no goals and no penalties even though the Royals took the most shots during this period. There was one shot that snuck its way into the net after being shot by Cam Reid, but the refs would rule it no goal due to incidental contact by David Marshall on Indy’s goalie Cody Reichard. After a fairly uneventful period, the Royals returned to the locker room to get fired up.
The second period saw a lot more action as Indy Fuel racked up a 3-0 lead over the Royals. The first goal came at 8:51 when Kirill Gotovets took a shot from the right circle and the puck flew over Connor Knapp’s shoulder. The second goal for Indy came in the latter half of the second period shortly after a penalty on Ryan Cruthers for slashing and an earlier penalty on Fuel’s Kirill Gotovets received two for slashing. Fuel defenseman Justin Holl scored his first goal as a pro with assists from Robert Czarnik and Mathieu Brisebois. Finally in the took an overwhelming lead against the Royals as Kirill Gotovets once again scored after his penalty expired, and he picked up the puck in the neutral zone at 18:16. The 2nd period ended with Indy Fuel leading 3-0.
The ending looked grim for the Royals as they entered the 3rd period with a lot of ground to make up, but that didn’t stop the Royals as they later came back with a 4-3 win. Early in the 3rd, Royals defenseman Maxim Lamarche started the Royals comeback by sinking a shot in the back of the net after forward Ryan Cruthers won the face-off and passed it back to him. At 6:21 into the period, Fuel’s forward Garett Bembridge was sent to the box for boarding. This lead to forward Pat Mullane scoring his sixth goal of the season with just one second left in the power play. Down by only one goal, the Royals regained their hopes of winning the game.
As the second half of the third period began, things started to heat up at Santander Arena. At 9:40 fans saw a gripping fight as 5’11” forward David Marshall brawled with Indy’s 6’6″ forward Garret Klotz. Marshall ended up with a black eye and fifteen stitches above his lip, but his fight fired up the Royals and led them to get two more goals in the last few minutes. Marshall later commented, “It’s a lot easier when you’re getting stitches and you hear that goal horn. I was yelling at my doctor to get my stuff on the dryer because I was ready to go out as soon as he put a couple in me. So, as soon as I heard that fourth goal horn go in and heard the excitement of the guys coming in. It’s a great feeling when you’re lying on that table and the guys are coming in and tapping you. I try to find some way to affect the game every night; it might not be on the scoreboard, but you do what you can.” He also added, “I don’t know if the fiancé is too happy about this with a wedding coming up this summer, but hopefully it will heal.”
At 11:48, Reading got a chance to tie the game after Indy defenseman Anders Franzon was called for delay of game. At the end of the power play, Adam Comrie shot one past Cody Reichard’s stick for his third goal of the season. Fueled by their comeback, the Royals later scored their game winning goal at 17:18 into the period. Mike Marcou took a shot that was refracted by Olivier Labelle. Indy goalie Reichard could not react quickly enough to stop the puck and the Royals skated off with a 4-3 win over Indy Fuel.
Sunday the Royals started out energized from their win the previous night. They seemed a bit more lively and aggressive than in previous season games. The Royals took the lead early at about two minutes into the game while Indy forward Robert Czarnik was in the box for hooking. Nineteen seconds into the power play Cam Reid deflected a shot from Adam Hughesman into the net. The Royals second goal came only half a minute after the first. Forward Andrew Johnston snuck one past Fuel goalie Sean Bonar on the Royals second shot of the night. At 3:36 Indy Fuel scored as the fan’s excitement sank. Luckily for the Royals, the ref quickly ruled incidental contact and the goal was revoked. The Royals were able to keep their two goal lead up until they gave Indy Fuel a power play at 13:48. Fuel took advantage of their extra man on the ice as defenseman Justin Holl snuck up on the weak side and tapped the puck in. The period later ended with a 2-1 lead for the Royals.
In the second period the Royals slowed down a bit while Fuel tried to pick up their game. Indy outshot Reading 19 to 14 in the second period, but luckily Royals goalie Martin Ouellette was able to block every shot with help from his team. He stated, “Last weekend, I had a couple of good games and I just kept going this weekend. I thought I played pretty well on Friday against Elmira and then again tonight; I felt comfortable with that. I think the guys played great defensively. We shut their offense down for the most part, so today was a great game and a great weekend.” Ouellette would later go on to receive game MVP. Once the Royals realized that Fuel was picking up their game, however, they picked up their game a bit remembering past games where they lost by getting too comfortable with their lead. The Royals were able to shut down Fuel’s offense as the second period went goalless and the score remained at 2-1.
By the end of the third period, the Indy Fuel would continue their record of having no wins while on the road. This period also went goal-less, but still saw some action. Late in the third there was more aggression from the Fuel as they grew desperate for a goal. In the last minute of the period Indy pulled their goalie. The Royals got a shot on the goal from the other side of the ice, but the puck went wide and the game ended shortly after with a final score of 2-1.
Overall, Coach Larry Courville seems to think that the Royals are playing better, but that there is definitely still room for improvement. He explains, “I think we are getting better. Obviously we got off to a good start here tonight with the first two shots going in. It was nice to get one early in the power play. But from then on in the second period, I thought we were pretty flat. I thought we had a good first half of the second. The second half wasn’t very good at all. And then I thought we managed the puck pretty well in the third period, just making sure pucks come below the goal line. They had really good scoring opportunities I thought, so I’m definitely happy with the weekend as a whole. It’s always nice to try and get 6, but five out of six is a pretty good weekend.”
The Royals play one of their biggest rivals Elmira on Thanksgiving eve. Elmira is currently ranked third in the Eastern Division while the Royals are ranked 5th. The Royals will also host a post-game chicken wing shoot that night. Then this weekend the Royals will take on the Greenville Road Warriors at home in back to back games. Greenville is currently ranked fourth in the Eastern division, but has played three more games than the Royals who are on their heels and only behind by three points.