Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (win, 15-10-1-0=31) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Wheeling Nailers (loss, 14-10-0-5=33), 4-1, at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Although the Nailers struck on their second shot of the game, Reading righted the ship, tied the game, and took the 1-1 deadlock to the third period. In the final twenty, the Royals struck early and pulled away with two power play goals down the stretch. This marked the fourth straight win on the road for the Royals, who are 4-0-1-0 in the team’s last five away games. After going through a stretch in which the team went winless for five straight (0-4-1-0), the Royals have won now five of the team’s last six games and for the third time this year have reached the high water mark of five games over .500.
Wheeling struck 2:42 in, when Jack MacLellan carried down the slot and ripped a snap shot low blocker on goaltender Josh Watson (win, 1-0-0-0, 22/23), who was playing in his first game as a pro. The puck dipped and eluded Watson for MacLellan’s fifth of the year.
Reading tied things 9:45 into the first off the rush on a beautiful tic-tac-toe-tic passing sequence in which four of the five skaters on the ice touched the puck. The sequence involved forwards Ryan Cruthers and Sean Wiles working the puck back-and-forth into the offensive end. Wiles fired a cross-ice pass to Yannick Tifu, who dropped it to the high slot, where a trialing Michal Cajkovsky gained possession, spun 360, and as he was falling to the ice somehow got off a back-hand that slid through goaltender Brooks Ostergard (loss, 0-2-1-0) for his fourth of the year.
After a spirited and physical—but scoreless—second period, the Royals broke through with what proved to be the game winner 1:02 into the third. Similar to the Royals’ first goal this play was started off the rush and finished with multiple tap passes, this time going from Wiles (who ended up with four assists on the night) to Tifu to the trailer Cruthers, who had an easy slam dunk coming down the gut for his third of the year.
Reading padded the lead to two on the team’s second power play chance on the night. This one was just a flat hot rocket from just inside the blueline by Cajkovsky, who walked the line from wide on the left point and drilled it high glove side for his first multi-goal game as a pro.
After a match-penalty five minute major was assessed on Wheeling’s Riley Miller for an illegal hit to the head, the Royals built the lead to three with another Wiles-to-Tifu-to-Cruthers passing sequence. On this one, the cross-ice pass came out of the right circle from Tifu (who would end up with three assists on the night) to a waiting Cruthers in the left circle. Cruthers fired a quick shot high short side for his second of the night and fourth of the year. For Cruthers, who was playing in his 169th career game as a Royal (second most all-time), that goal pushed his all-time team scoring lead to 178points (59g-119a).
For Reading, the win pushed the team’s record in calendar year 2013—during which the team won the organization’s first Kelly Cup Championship—to 54-27-7 in the 88 total games of the year.
The Royals return to action on Friday, January 3 @ 7:15 pm when the team will travel to Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. 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 6:45 pm on the Royals Broadcast Network. As with all Royals’ road games, Friday’s matchup will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
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