After a 4-3 overtime loss to Elmira on Friday and a 5-2 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday, the Reading Royals needed a plan to win Sunday night’s game. According to forward Kevin Walrod, the usually quiet captain Bryant Molle stepped up to the plate and gave an inspiring pep talk to motivate the team. He explains, “We were almost embarrassed last night. We hadn’t lost two in a row for a long time, and we had a big speech from our captain last night after the game.
For a captain who typically leads by example rather than words, a passionate speech can come to mean a lot more. Walrod adds, “It was a first for me ever seeing him do a speech like that. It was very emotional. He was kind of just letting us know teams are trying to make playoffs right now so their amping their game up, so we have to do the same,” he adds, “We have to be prepared to match the intensity of these teams who are trying to make playoffs right now.
Molle’s speech must have worked as Walrod states, “That really hit home with the guys. We came focused and ready to play tonight.” Not only that, but the Royals would pull off a convincing 6-1 over the Wings by the end of the night.
The Royals took an early lead in the first as Jordan Heywood scored against Kalamazoo goalie Joel Martin at just 1:07 into the period. This was Heywood’s 8th goal of the season, placing him as top scorer among the defenseman on the team. Around 17:11 Heywood took another close shot that was blocked by Martin. Fortunately, Cam Reid was there to pick up the rebound and stuff it back into the net for his 25th of the season. This would also prove to be the game winner.
In the second, the rivalry got a bit more heated. Quite a bit of chirping, scraps and brawls would break out until Olivier Labelle scored on a powerplay increasing the Royals lead to three.When asked about the physicality of the game Labelle commented,
“That was kind of like playoff hockey tonight with the fights, so it’s something to be expected.”
Not long after Labelle’s goal, Pat Mullane would come in and increase the Royals lead yet again. With a crowd around the net, Ryan Cruthers managed to kick the puck across the top of the crease where Mullane stole it and jabbed it past Martin. This would cause the desperate Wings to swap goalies from Joel Martin to Garrett Bartus.
No matter what the Wings tried, they could not stop the Royals. Before the periods end, Royal defenseman Brett Flemming would sent yet another puck into Kalamazoo’s net. After a rebounded shot from Kevin Walrod, Flemming promptly took up the puck and fired a snap shot that flew right under Bartus’ right arm. As the buzzer sounded, the Royals returned to the locker room with a comfy five-goal lead.
In the third the Royal’s hopes of a shutout were dashed when Kalamazoo finally scored. Just two minutes and four seconds into the period, Wing forward Dane Fox carried the puck down the left wing side and slipped the puck right under Connor Knapp’s pads. Reading remained confident, however, and quickly answered with another goal just over a minute later. Walrod, who was later deemed star of the game, slid one past Bartus with a shot from the mid-slot. The Royals skated away with a 6-1 win for their 500th home game in franchise history.
The Royals are now headed for Canada where they will play the Brampton Beasts on Thursday, Friday and Sunday night. Many players are excited for this unique trip and some of them even have family nearby who are planning to attend the games. “It’s going to be a nice trip just to see family,” Coach Courville states.
After this trip, the Royals will return home for their 1,000th game in franchise history against the Florida Everblades. Florida currently leads the division with 86 points. The Royals trail them by three. With only twelve games left in the season, the Royals only need to pull off a few more wins to claim a spot in the play-offs.