Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (win, 14-10-1-0=29) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Kalamazoo Wings (loss, 14-10-0-2=30), 5-2, at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Reading was able to hold on through an early offensive thrust by the K-Wings thanks in no small measure to several Grade-A saves from goaltender Riley Gill (win, 10-6-0-0, 37/39) and then countered to build a four goal lead before things devolved into a chippie penalty-marred morass. The win, which is only the third regulation win on home ice this season for Reading, snapped a team record five game home losing streak.
The Royals controlled the first few moments of the game, but the K-Wings, who were riding a six game road winning streak, countered with an extended phase of offensive attack. But the Royals would strike first 15:54 into the first period while playing on the team’s second power play of night. Yannick Tifu attacked through the right circle, gained a spot below the dot, and drilled a perfectly placed snap shot short-side high on goaltender Joel Martin (loss, 5-5-0-2, 29/34) for his fifth of the year.
Thirty-eight seconds later the Royals built a 2-0 lead, when Sean Wiles carried deep into the offensive zone and slipped a perfect pass from below the goal line to a wide-open and all-alone Ethan Cox who was stalking in the mid-slot. Cox drilled a hard, low shot that blew by Martin for his third of the year.
Kalamazoo broke through on their second power play chance of the game 1:07 into the second period. The K-Wings created a strong push around the Royals’ net, and Eric Kattelus slid a back-hand on goal from the left side of the crease, which Gill rejected with paddle down. However, the puck slid to the weak side where a waiting (and unguarded) Yanni Gourde had an easy chip up and over Gill for his twelfth of the year.
The Royals got what proved to be the game winner 8:43 into the second on a highlight-reel breakaway goal for Tifu. Dustin Gazley gained possession inside the Royals’ defensive blue line and threaded a tape-to-tape pass to Tifu, who was sniping at the offensive blue line. Tifu took the puck on the fly and grabbed the inside track on a Kalamazoo defender. Tifu cut diagonal down through the slot and, with one hand on the stick, pulled the puck from the back-hand side to his forehand where he was able to stuff it behind Martin for his second of the night. For Tifu that was his 145th point as a Royal (53g-92a=145), which pushes him beyond Ben Gordon as the second leading scorer in Royals’ history.
Reading got some important insurance forty-eight seconds into the third, when it was Wiles who again blew into the offensive zone, carried around the Kalamazoo net, and slipped a cross-crease pass to a waiting Louie Caporusso, who had all sorts of time and space to double-pump one over Martin for his seventh of the season. For Caporusso, who also assisted on the Royals first goal of the game, this accounted for his team leading 28th point of the year (7g-21a) and his ninth multi-point game of the year.
As the game devolved, the Royals were awarded multiple power play chances—the team would end up with thirteen opportunities with the man advantage—and capitalized on a five-on-three 14:48 into the third, when defenseman Marvin Degon ripped a perfect one-timer off the top of the left circle that beat Martin low stick side for Degon’s first of the year to make it 5-1, Reading.
Kalamazoo’s Gourde slipped his second of the game through on a neatly angled deflection of a pass from Ludwig Blomstrand up and over the left arm of Gill to make it 5-2; but by that point the only thing that kept this game going was the officials’ efforts to properly register the 118 total penalty minutes on the game sheet that would be assessed.
The Royals return to action on New Year’s Eve (Tuesday, December 31 @ 6:00 pm) when the team will travel to WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia to take on the Wheeling Nailers. The game night broadcast on CBS Sports Radio 1240 am and 98.5 will kick off with the Highmark Blue Shield Warm-Up Show at 5:30 pm on the Royals Broadcast Network . As with all Royals’ road games, Tuesday’s matchup will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
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