(Source: Purdon Photography: Royalshockey.com)
After breaking their three-game losing streak by beating the South Carolina Stingrays last Sunday 2-0, the Royals set out on a mission to get on a winning streak. This weekend they took on the Wheeling Nailers at home for their last home games before Christmas. They kept their holiday traditions of previous years going by wearing their ugly sweater jerseys. The jerseys must have been lucky for them as they won their first game this weekend on Friday.
Friday night started out well for the Royals as Royals forward Brandon Alderson came out and got their first goal at only 4:29 into the period. His teammate Ryan Cruthers took possession of the puck just seconds before while behind the Nailers’ net. Cruthers passed it to the center of the Nailers’ defensive zone where Alderson picked it up and shot it over the glove of Wheeling’s goalie Franky Palazzese. Two minutes later the Royals got chance to further their lead when Wheeling’s defenseman David Makowski was called for high-sticking. Unfortunately, the Royals were not able to take advantage opportunity as the score would stay at 1-0 for the rest of the period.
Although the Royals were not able to take advantage of their power play in the first period, they were able to take advantage of their next twenty minutes of ice time as they went on to score three more goals. Although the first ten minutes went slow for the Royals, the second half saw plenty of action. Their second goal of the night came at 11:58 from Royals forward Pat Mullane. The Royals had a one-man-advantage thanks to Makowski’s second penalty of the night and with the extra man Ryan Cruthers and Willie Coetzee were able to work out a play to get the puck to Pat Mullane who was waiting deep on the right side. They fed him the puck and he took no time to shoot and sink the puck in the back of the net.
With the score at 2-0 the Royals were hungry for more. Just under 30 seconds after the second goal, forward Olivier Labelle snuck one into the net. Right out of the face-off Labelle took control of the puck and worked his way up through the center of the ice. As he made his way to the hash-marks he shot one low past Palazzese and scored his sixth goal of the season. Still hungry the Royals scored their fourth goal of the night at 16:50. During their third power play opportunity of the night, Reading capitalized on their five-on-three advantage as Zach Davies received the puck from Pat Mullane after a won face-off from Ryan Cruthers. Davies moved along the blue line to gain some space and shot one hard into the net. The score would stay at 4-0 for the rest of the period, but not the rest of the night.
(Source: Purdon Photography: Royalshockey.com)
In the third, Wheeling came out to try and win back the game. Right off the bat Nailer defenseman Paul Cianfrini took a pass from forward Chaz Johnson and shot it under and through Royals Goalie Martin Ouellette breaking his chance at back-to-back shut-outs. Although the Royals lost their four goal lead, they came back and regained it about five minutes later. Brandon Alderson was fed a pass from Ryan Cruthers who was behind the net and shot one past Palazzese for his second of the game. The Wheeling Nailers were not ready to give up yet though.
At 9:26 Nailer forward Tyler Fernandez tried to start a comeback for Wheeling. As the Nailers swarmed the net they pushed and somehow snuck one into the net. The Royals argued that the Fernandez kicked the puck into the net, but after some debate, Wheeling was still awarded the goal making the score 5-2. The next goal on the Nailers way to a comeback took place just under two minutes later. At 11:15 Wheeling forward Tyler Murovich scored an unassisted short-handed goal despite being surrounded by the Royals. After working around the players he took a shot that was blocked by Ouellette. However, the rebound was knocked right back in front of him as he took a second shot which found its way into the net further depleting the Royals lead to only two goals.
With only two minute left in the third, the Nailers began to push. At 18:03 the Royals gave them a chance and they took it after Olivier Labelle was called for a cross-checking minor. Twenty seconds later at 18:23 Wheeling forward Zack Torquato shot one from just inside the blue line, past multiple players, and Ouellette to make the score 5-4. With the Nailers on their tails, the Royals realized they needed to step it up. Fortunately, they were able to hold off the Nailers for the rest of the night and win their second game in a row.
On Saturday the Royals tried to continue their winning streak and claim their third win. The night started with fans slipping on their ugly sweater jersey giveaways to support the team and a puck drop from Derrick Redcay. At age 18 Redcay suffered from a stroke which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Before this, Redcay was a student at Muhlenberg High School, a baseball player, and a firefighter. Recently Royals forward has been visiting and helping support both him and his family. As the game started Cruthers wheeled Derrick onto the ice and posed for a picture while Derrick got to participate in the ceremonious opening puck drop. Afterwards, the game got underway.
Seeking revenge from the precious night, the Nailers came out strong and took the first goal. As both teams surrounded the net and jabbed at the puck Wheeling’s forward Jarret Burton was able to push one past Royals goalie Martin Ouellette for his second goal of the season. Other than the goal, the first period saw little action other than a few penalties. There was a fight between a few of the players at the end before the teams cleared the ice, but it was quickly put to an end as the Royals hit the locker rooms down by one.
In the second period, the Royals tried to make a comeback and were successful. While Brandon Alderson was behind the Nailers’ net, he was able to sneak a pass to forward Willie Coetzee who slipped the puck to forward Andrew Johnston who took the shot and scored on Wheeling goalie Eric Hartzell. After spending the second half of the first period and the first half of the second down by one, both the Royals and their fans were relieve to see a tied score. Unfortunately, by the end of the second the score was still tied at 1-1 and the Royals knew they would have tough third period.
In the third period the heat was one with both teams tied at one. Early in the third Ryan Cruthers made Derrick Redcay proud by scoring what would prove to be the game winning goal of the night. After Brandon Alderson and Willie Coetzee rushed up into the Nailers’ zone they passed the puck back to Cruthers who shot one hard past Hatzell for his fourth goal of the season. Cruthers later commented, “That one was for him [Derrick Redcay], that’s for sure. That’s a goal we’re both going to remember for a long time.” Later in the period Cruthers almost scored another goal after Wheeling pulled their goalie, but the puck hit the post and was picked up by a Nailer and taken back into the Royals zone. Luckily for the Royals, the Nailers’ last attempt at a goal was unsuccessful and the Royals went on to win the game 2-1.
Coach Courville was happy with the win, but still wants the team to improve. He states, “Tonight wasn’t our strongest game, but it was a game that when the bounces didn’t go our way, the effort was there. I thought we could have scored a few goals in the first period on the power play. With five-on-five, I thought the goalie played really well. We talked about that second goal that he probably wanted back, but he gave them an opportunity to win. We just have to keep working and building to get better as a team.”
After Saturday night’s game the Royals set out on a trip to Wheeling to face the Nailers in a third game on their turf. The Royals are currently 7th in the conference while the Nailers are set in 9th place. Fans can also expect to see Connor Knapp back in the net as coach Courville says he wants to give him a shot away from home ice. He states, “My decision right now is probably to go back with Knapp tomorrow. We have a game on the road. I think he needs to get away from this building and play. I hope he plays a strong game for us tomorrow.” The Royals will be on the road for a while playing Indy Fuel, Evansville Ice Men, and the Elmira Jackals away in the next two weeks. Their next home game will be on December 27th against the Elmira Jackals who are currently ranked 5th in the conference.