The good news is that the Reading Royals managed to clinch a spot in the playoffs this past week while playing in Brampton, Canada. They played the last place team of the Central Division team, the Brampton Beasts on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Unfortunately, Thursday night ended in Brampton’s favor with their center Justin Donati scoring just 34 seconds into overtime. On Friday and Sunday night, however, the Royals managed to slay the Beasts with scores of 6-3 and 8-3. Many players were glad to get a chance to visit with their families, but as Wednesday came around they had to return to Reading to take on the first place team in the Eastern Division, the Florida Everblades.
The bad news is the Royals ultimately flopped last night for their 1000th game in franchise history. Just 33 seconds into the game Reading allowed Florida’s forward Ray Kaunisto to sneak in and bank the puck off Connor Knapp’s pad and into the net. The Royals would seem to play rather flat afterward and only managed to take a total of 4 on goal.
Before the period’s end, Florida would claim their second goal of the night. At 13:25 while the players scrambled for the puck in front of the Royals net, Nicolas Deschamps was able to nab the puck and shove it under Knapp for Florida’s second goal of the night. To make a long story short, the Royals were outshot 20-4 and outscored 2-0.
Pat Mullane later commented, “Obviously not the start we wanted, giving up a goal in the first shift. I think they were just a little more prepared to play. You know, I think we had, I don’t want to say an easy weekend, but we definitely faced an opponent that wasn’t as talented as Florida last weekend. Maybe we weren’t ready to play or as focused. Whatever it may be, we just didn’t come out with the start we wanted.”
In the second, the Royals showed improvement, but were still greatly outplayed by the Everblades. Once again Florida managed to score within the first minute. At just 19 seconds, defenseman Bobby Preece scored on a deflected snap shot from Carter Sandlak. Although neither team would be able to score for the rest of the period, the Royals were able to out shoot the Everblades this period 15-7.
(Source: Purdon Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/readingroyals/)
Luckily, Florida didn’t score within the first minute this time, but at 4:21 Forward Mike Aviani managed to score on a deflected shot from Spencer Pommells. With a 4-0 lead and time ticking away, there seemed to be a decent chance of the Everblades claiming a shutout by the night’s end.
With less than three minutes left Brett Flemming finally scored the Royals’ first and only goal on Florida goalie Matt Ginn. This goal would raise tension in the stadium. Within the next play, Mike Aviani would come barreling down the ice into Brandon Alderson and send both of them, as well as Ginn and the net back against the boards. Avanie received a ten-minute misconduct for the act, and left the ice with only minutes to go.
After this bit of drama, the Royals decided to pull their goalie. Unfortunately, this would only lead to Florida scoring their fifth goal of the night. While in their defensive zone, Mike Little chucked the puck down the ice where Adam Brace out-raced everyone to nullify the icing call. Brace quickly slipped the puck back to Matt Marquart, who pounded it into the net for the final goal of the game. Coach Larry Courville commented, “To be honest, we haven’t been playing good hockey in two weeks. We haven’t seen a lot of great teams and this was a really good team.”
Although the Royals faced a tough 5-1 loss last night, they aren’t ready to accept defeat just yet and are already looking forward to their next game as well as the playoffs. Pat Mullane explains, “When we’re getting down to the final stretch here, I think we’re going to be facing a lot of good teams and in the playoffs we’re going to be facing a lot of good teams and if you’re not ready to play right off the bat then you’re going to find yourself behind the 8-ball and you know, climbing uphill all game, so just be more prepared and more focused that first period.”
Next up on the agenda, the Royals will play Indy Fuel in Indianapolis on Friday. Indy is currently in 6th place in the Northern Division. On Saturday they will take on the 4th place Nailers in Wheeling. The Royals have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but will continue to push for good positioning in the playoffs. They also have to watch out for South Carolina who are currently on a 22-game winning streak and trailing the Royals by only one point.