Kalamazoo, MI – The Reading Royals (loss, 22-13-1-0=45) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, were defeated by the Kalamazoo Wings (win, 21-15-1-2= 45), 4-3, at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Reading answered an early power play goal by the K-Wings with a power play goal of their own in the second period to enter the third tied at one. But three straight in the third period by Kalamazoo built a 4-1 lead before the Royals made a strong late game push of their own—which included a penalty shot goal by Sean Wiles—to draw within one. The game ended on a twenty-five-second five-on-three pulled goaltender power play flurry for the Royals, who had necessary offensive zone puck possession, but nothing to show for it when the dust finally settled. The loss snapped the Royals season-long seven game win streak.
Kalamazoo broke the Royals’ string of seven consecutive games in which they had scored the game’s first goal by bagging one of their own on the K-Wings’ first power play chance of the night. Elgin Reid slipped a pass to Sam Ftorek at right point. Ftorek feigned as if he intended to shoot; but instead threaded a pass to the high slot, where a waiting Matt Caria had all sorts of time and space. Caria drilled it high blocker on Riley Gill (loss, 10-7-0-0, 25/28, 1 eng in 58:39) for his twelfth of the year. That was only the sixth power play goal scored against the Royals (in fifty chances) on the road this season.
Reading tied the game on the team’s sixth power play chance of the second period, which provided two separate sequences of five-on-three—one 1:03 in length and the other 42 seconds long. But the goal would come on the back end of a double minor assessed against Kalamazoo’s Ray Kaunisto for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct. After opening up the shooting gallery for a flurry, Wiles found Aaron Gens at the right point. Gens set one on a tee for Marvin Degon for a blast off the top of the left circle that beat Joel Martin (win, 8-7-0-2, 29/32) short-side at the 16:00 mark of the second. For Degon, that was his third of the year—all three of which have come on the power play.
The third period started close to the vest, but closed with a wild flurry of activity in stark contrast to the somewhat conservative first two periods of the game. The scoring spree started 12:35 into the third when Chris Lawrence stepped out of the penalty box and was hit by Ray Kaunisto on a long stretch pass. Lawrence broke into the Royals’ zone and fired a low shot from the left circle that slipped under Gill for his fourth of the year.
After that, the K-Wings didn’t waste 1:03 of five-on-three power play of their own, which came 14:54 into the third period. Sam Ftorek set up for a hot blast out of the left circle that blew by everybody including Gill for his eighth of the season to make it 3-1 twenty-one seconds into the five-on-three.
With just under two minutes left, the Royals pulled the goaltender, looking for some late game magic. Unfortunately for Reading, the strategy back-fired at this moment, as Kalamazoo’s Yannick Vielleux, got open look at the empty net to make it 4-1 Kalamazoo and get what would prove to be the game winner with 1:44 left in regulation.
But Reading didn’t go away lightly. Right off the face-off to re-start play, Sean Wiles was sprung on a breakaway. Wiles was hauled from behind and awarded a penalty shot. Wiles didn’t waste that chance, laying down a beautiful forehand-backhand chip up and over the arm of Martin for his tenth of the year to make it 4-2 18:29 into the third.
The pulled goaltender strategy worked to Reading’s advantage moments later, with the two teams playing four aside. The Royals pulled Gill to make it a five-on-four skater advantage, and after an extended attack, Wiles found Josh Brittain loose in the slot for his second goal in two games with the Royals with 31.1 seconds left in regulation.
Six seconds after the face-off to restart play, a delay of game penalty was assessed on the Wings’ Elgin Reid. That gave the Royals a four-on-three power play which they turned into a late game five-on-three when the team pulled the goaltender for the third time. Reading came hard with a flurry as time ticked down but ran out of time before the team could hit paydirt and dropped to 11-5-1-0 on the road this year.
The Royals return to action tomorrow (Saturday, January 25 @ 7:15 pm) when the Royals continue the team’s six-game road trip against the Toledo Walleye at Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. As with all Royals’ road games this year, Saturday’s game will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations. 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.
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