This weekend the Royals exerted a slew of energy playing three back-to-back games against the Florida Everblades. After winning eight straight games in the weeks prior the Royals have worked their way up to second place just behind the Everblades. Before this weekend, Reading trailed Florida by only three points. With hopes of knocking the Florida Everblades out of first place, the Royals pushed hard this weekend to win some games.
Saturday night was a rumble in the jungle after Reading beat Florida 5-4 the previous night. It was the Royals Penn State THON night, the fur circus came to entertain the crowd and many other local groups came out to enjoy the game. The game was nearly sold out as 6,444 fans packed the stadium to see if the Royals could knock the Everblades out of first place. They were not let down. The first period was a bit slow, but in the second period tensions and rivalries escalated so much that barely a minute could pass without a goal, penalty, or some other bit of excitement.
Olivier Labelle commented, “It’s just the three game series against the first place team, I mean, if you don’t get motivated for those types of games, especially like today with a big crowd, you’ll never be motivated. I think we matched well against that team and I think we have the same kind of team a little bit so we’re pretty equally skilled and equally all around so I think we had to do a little something more. It’s great that the guys stepped up and did something a little more physical. It looks like playoff hockey to me.”
In the first period there was little scoring as both teams played it safe; that is until the last two minutes. At 18:29 Sean Wiles went in for a goal, but missed. Forward Matt Hatch stepped in to snatch the puck and stuffed it into the net for a shorthanded goal. A frustrated Everblade, Alex Lavoie, later picked up the puck and flung it across the ice which earned him a ten minute misconduct. The score would freeze at 1-0 for the rest of the period. The total shots by the end of the period were only 4 for the Royals and 9 for the Everblades.
In the second period Florida quickly struck back by nabbing a goal within the first two minutes of the period. At 1:19 Florida defenseman Rob Florentino tied up the game with an easy goal after he caught Royals goalie Connor Knapp off to one side of the net. The Royals were less than pleased and answer back with another goal of their own in just over a minute. This goal was scored by defenseman Jordan Heywood to give the Royals their lead back. By the end of the second half of the first the Florida Everblades tied up the score once again when Florida left wing Matt Marquardt snuck a rebounded attempt back into the net.
As the game entered the latter half of the second period, the Everblades stole the Royals lead. At 10:10 Everblade defenseman Gleason Fournier turned the game around by shooting one in the back of the net. All was not lost for the Royals, however, as forward David Marshall answered the Everblades goal to tie up the game once again at 3-3. Tension grew in the stadium as Florida defenseman Cameron Burt had a meltdown and received a two minute penalty for slashing, a ten minute misconduct and was ultimately booted from the game with a game misconduct for abuse of the officials. Many more fighting and penalties ensued. By the end of the game Florida would accumulate a total of 50 minutes of penalty time.
With just over a minute left the Royals regained control of the game as Olivier Labelle pounded one into the net with assists from Maxim Lamarche and Adam Hughesman. The packed house cheered enthusiastically as the Royals recovered their lead. Seconds later forwards Sean Wiles stole another goal as the crowd went wild again. With a safer 5-3 lead, the Royals headed back to the locker rooms to strategize a plan on how to keep their lead.
In the third the Everblades struggled to come back from the Royals two goal lead. Despite getting ten shots on the goal compared to the Royals five, Florida was not able to sneak the puck past goalie Connor Knapp. More fighting a physicality ensued as the teams tried to send a message to one another. Sean Wiles later stated, “I think we decided we were going to play a little more physical in the third and it helped us. I mean, it’s part of our game plan when we are trying to hold on to a lead, to get pucks in behind the D and play physical and make it hard on them. I think it definitely helped me out during the game, for sure.”
With about two minutes left the Everblades made one final attempt as they decided to pull their goalie. Even with their extra man, they failed to get the puck past the Royals defense. The game ended with a score of 5-3 as Reading ultimately knocked the Florida out of first place in the division. The stars of the game were forward Sean Wiles in 1st, forward Olivier Labelle in 2nd, and Forward Matt Hatch in 3rd. After a long night the Royals headed back to their apartments to rest up for their game the following night.
After two long nights of hockey the exhausted Royals and Everblades hit the ice for their third game in a row on Sunday night. On the previous night the Royals had worked their way into first place, pushing the Everblades into second, but the Everblades only trailed the Royals by one point. If Reading would win, they would increase their lead, but if Florida won that would be able to reclaim first place, and push the Royals back into their original standing. The game would go to whichever team had the most left in them and ultimately who wanted it more.
The first period started out with just a much physicality and fighting as the night before as Florida became desperate for a win and prompted the Royals to play just as rough if they wanted to win. The Royals took an early lead at 3:06 after a long time of five-on-three. Defenseman Mike Marcou passed on in front of the net where Ryan Cruthers redirected it over Florida goalie Andy Iles.
Three minutes later, the Royals increased their lead to two while shorthanded. After his penalty expired forward David Marshall hit the ice, picked up the puck and made his way to the goal. With a Florida defensemen hot on his trail, he did the best he could to protect the puck, reached the goal and finally knocked it into the top of the net.
Although the Royals were now up by two, the Everblades were not ready to give up. At 12:07 Florida forward Evan Bloodoff finally snuck one past Royals goalie Martin Ouellette while on a power play. After receiving a pass from Mitch Wahl, Bloodoff tapped the puck in with just enough force to redirect it and send it over the crease. With a score of 2-1 both teams hit the locker rooms to strategize and regain some energy.
In the second both teams conserved their energy expecting to make a final push in the third. Both teams seemed to be getting more and more exhausted as they pushed on. There were no goals during the period and even the number of shots were low: Reading 5 – Florida 8. The period ended with the same score as it started out with. The energy depleted teams took a break before the third period where they make a final effort to pull off a win.
Much like the first and second, the third period was not very gracious to the Everblades. As the clock ticked on, the game didn’t look good for Florida. The scored stayed at 2-1 for most of the period, that is, until the very last second. That’s right, at 19.59.9 seconds the Florida Everblades Evan Bloodoff once again managed to grab a goal and tie the game by the skin of his teeth. The game was not over yet.
After a miraculous goal the two utterly beat teams set up for five more minutes of play. Even though the Royals started out with a power play they were unable to get immediate revenge for Florida’s last minute goal. The game ended up going into a shootout. The Royals went first as both teams scored on their first attempts. The Royals’ goal came from Ryan Cruthers and the Everblades goal came from Matt Marquardt. It would take nine rounds and fourteen different shooters until the Royals Andrew Johnston finally ended the game, giving the Royals a 3-2 win over the Everblades as well as their eleventh win in a row.
Sean Wiles later commented, “No one could anticipate ten [now eleven] in a row. It’s kind of a special thing that we are all part of right now. We’re just kind of embracing it. We’re enjoying it. We’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves, that’s for sure. We’re just enjoying ourselves. Enjoying everyone’s company and playing hockey. It’s a lot of fun right now.”
The Royals will now embark on a road trip where they will play five games against various teams over the next two weeks. Only time will tell is they can continue their winning streak, and stay in first place.