A sense of urgency fell upon Santander Arena this weekend as the Reading Royals faced-off against the Toledo Walleye. After Florida worked their way up to tie the Royals in the rankings, and with Toledo hightailing them in points as well, the pressure was on to pull off at least one win this weekend.
Although the Royals thrived early in Saturday’s game, gaining a 3-1 lead, they weren’t able to hold on as Toledo stole the game during the third period. The game ended with a final score of 5-3 with Toledo claiming the victory. Many fans would blame the loss on some poor calls from the officials. Coach Larry Courville commented, “We thought we should have won the game, you know, when they only had 29 shots and with ten minutes of power play time, we thought we outplayed them for the majority of the game. We looked at the stats from our computer and it told us that we had puck possession for 62% of the game, so, that’s a pretty good stat for our team, and unfortunately the penalties hurt us and we lost the game.”
After the ill-fated loss on Saturday, the Royals came back on Sunday seeking retribution. The game started with Reading taking the first goal at 7:39. As the Royals took the Walleye’s zone Adam Hughesman took a shot from out near the blue line. The puck was headed about a foot wide when Cam Reid, who was planted in front of the net, noticed and jabbed it past Toledo goalie Jared Careau. Not long after, the Walleye would swap out this 6’5” goalie for their 5’6” goalie Jeff Lerg. Lerg was able to hold off the rest of the Royals scoring attempts for the remainder of the period as the buzzer rang with a score of 1-0.
There was a sense of a playoff atmosphere as the game trailed on, and neither team would surrender in allowing the other to score. Forward David Marshall commented,
“We kind of had the mentality that you can’t lose two in a row. So whether it’s this team or any other team, but especially this team, you can’t lose two games in a row anymore at this point in the season.”
Near the end of the period at 17:12, Brandon Alderson finally broke through the Walleye’s defense for the Royals’ second goal of the game. After Bryant Molle wrapped around the net and took a hard shot that rebounded off of Lerg’s shoulder, Alderson stole the puck and shoveled it into the net for his 5th of the season. This would cause tension to swelter between the two teams. As they made their way to the center circle a small scuffle would transpire.
This wouldn’t dampen the Royals energy though; they answered with another goal just over a minute later. With this goal, Marshall picked up his own rebound and knocked it in after taking a shot from the right circle. This was his 19th of the year and would later prove to be the game winner. With the Royals up by two, the Walleye pushed hard and took two goal-worthy shots within the next few minutes; goalie Connor Knapp wouldn’t have it though and stopped them both. The Royals would take their three-goal lead to the third period.
Toledo tried to take charge in the third. At 5:38 Walleye forward Shane Berschbach carried the mail up the ice, danced around three Royals and finished by firing the puck between the pipes. Toledo continued and attempted a comeback as Martin Frk claimed the Walleye’s second goal of the night. As he moved down the center, he fired a shot that flew by everyone, including Knapp, to claim his 23rd goal of the season.
With the score at 3-2 and only 1:49 left to go, Toledo made one last endeavor to come back; after calling a time-out the team pulled their goalie. Fortunately the Royals were able to hold off the Walleye. The Royals would leave the ice worthy of their 3-2 win. Defenseman Brett Flemming later commented, “It was a tough one. I haven’t seen that team before, but they’re definitely a good team. They definitely had some good scoring. Their D was solid back there. Both goalies played, I mean one goalie was only in for a period or so, but you know. I know they’re both good goalies. It was a good series and kind of a playoff atmosphere so it was a fun game.”
Next weekend the Royals will take on the Elmira Jackals on Saturday and the Kalamazoo Wings on Sunday. Elmira is currently in 6th place of the Eastern division and 8th in the conference. Kalamazoo is currently in 3rd place in the Northern Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference.
The Royals are currently in a battle for first place in the division against the Florida Everblades. Both teams have 80 points, but the Royals have played one more game than the Everblades. There is still over a month left in the regular season, but if the Royals can hold on to their top players and keep up their win record, they should be able to make it into the playoffs.