Coming off of a 5-4 loss against the Orlando Solar Bears, the Reading Royals played the Wheeling Nailers Wednesday night. The Royals were fighting for the home-ice advantage while the Wheeling Nailers were fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
The night started off with some scrappy-looking play and a fight between Royal forward David Marshall and Nailer defenseman David Makowski at 9:33. Both would receive five for fighting. Not long after Wheeling’s forward Derek Army would fire a snap shot past Connor Knapp to score the first goal of the night. Despite the Royals out-shooting the Nailers 16-12, Nailer goalie Franky Palazzese was too hot on his game to allow the Royals to score.
The Royals have recently added some new faces to their roster as well, including Curtis Leonard, Justin Crandall, Ryan Misiak and Joe Rehkamp. Justin Crandall is a spirited newcomer who managed to take the most shots on goal during the game with 6 shots. He has come to Reading straight from college, University of Minnesota Duluth, and is planning on playing with the Royals during the playoffs.
“It’s a really good group of guys in there and a really good hockey team, so any time you get to play with good players it’s going to help you out a little bit. The guys have been great. They’ve really been helping me out and taking me under their wing. It’s been great to play with two veteran guys like Cruthers and Marshall. It’s a little bit different game than a college game, obviously. It’s a little more skilled with puck support, but overall it’s been a good transition so far,” Crandall explains.
At the beginning of the second period, Nailer Paul Cianfrini was sent to the box for tripping which led to Olivier Labelle tying the game up at 6:40. This was Labelle’s 30th goal of the season, 101st career goal and 200th point. Greg Hogeboom is the only other Royal to ever accomplish this 30-goal feat back in the 2006-2007 season. Labelle is currently the all-time leading goal scorer for the Reading Royals and although he was the one to score the goals, he gives most of the credit to his teammates.
“I try my hardest and I get rewarded. I get the chance to play with really good players here, and my style of playing Larry likes it and puts me in situations that allow me to score some goals. It’s a mix of a lot of things, but especially the way I play, it’s not that I get greedy in front of the net. If nobody it shooting the puck, if nobody makes the play, you can’t score goals. I think it’s just a testament of me playing with good players and having the opportunity here and making the best of it.” –Olivier Labelle
Coach Larry Courville is also proud of Labelle and commented, “He’s had a great year for us. He works extremely hard. He gets rewarded because he works so hard. He’s definitely a big asset for our team.”
As the second period winded down, the Nailers took the lead again when their forward Josh Archibald scored with a hard shot that flew by Knapp. This goal would later prove to be the game winner. Once again, the Royals managed claim more scoring chances than the Nailers by out-shooting them 19-11. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t get the puck past Palazzese and his team.
In the third, the Royals kept the heat on the Nailers, this time outshooting them 12-7. By the end of the period they would pull their goalie and claim multiple goal-worthy shots, but unfortunately ended up going home with a 2-1 loss. “I felt like we definitely played well enough to win the game,” Coach Courville commented, “Some games you’re supposed to win, you lose, and some games you’re supposed to lose, you win.”
The Royals will continue to fight for the home-ice advantage against the Indy Fuel this Friday and Saturday. They are currently at near the bottom of the Northern Division. Throughout the season the Royals have played the Fuel a total of six times and manage to beat them each time. Overall, the Royals are looking forward to the playoffs and are hoping to go far.