Duluth, GA – The Reading Royals (win, 30-18-1-1=62) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Gwinnett Gladiators (loss, 18-29-2-2= 40), 2-1, at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
For the seventh time in a row (and the eighth time in the last nine played), the opponent scored first, but for the fourth time in the last eight played, the Royals were able to muster the energy and effort to pull out the come-from-behind win in a messy penalty-filled contest in front of a huge crowd (10, 880) on the strength of a tie-breaking third period game winner by Michal Cajkovsky. Brandon Anderson (win, 15-8-1-0, 32/33) had another spectacular performance and earned the second star in the team’s seventeenth road win of the year (17-8-0-1).
3:27 into the game the Gladiators broke through on their first (of what would be six) power play chances on the night. Bobby Hughes got the puck back to the left point, where Jonathan Narbonne settled and slid a nice cross-ice pass to the top of the right circle where former Royal Rob Kwiet teed up a beautiful one-time rocket that blew by Anderson for his sixth of the year.
The game devolved shortly after that point with both goaltenders getting the brunt of in-crease collisions. 11:23 into the first Gwinnett’s starting goaltender Mathieu Corbeil (no decision, 6/6 in 11:23) required assistance to get off the ice after another collision in the blue-paint—and veteran journeyman and former Royal Nick Niedert (loss, 0-1-0-0, 35/37) came on in substitution to win the second star.
3:09 into the second, Reading finally solved Niedert and the Gladiators’ defense when Brett Flemming stood up at the offensive blue line, forced his way down the right wing wall, and snapped a shot from the half-wall that snuck through Niedert for his fifth of the year.
The back-and-forth mess continued through the remainder of the second period as the two teams traded marginal and some-times chippie penalties that would result in 85 total minutes.
In the third, Reading, who would get eight power plays on the night, squandered several chances with the man advantage before finally hitting pay-dirt while playing at even strenght after an offensive zone face-off 8:37 into the final frame. Ethan Cox won the faceoff in the left circle to Kevin Walrod, who slipped it back up to the left point, where Michal Cajkovsky fired a cross-bar high seeing eye-wrister that eluded everyone and everything and slipped over the left shoulder of Niedert into the net for his tenth of the year.
From that point forward, the Royals played a more consistent and solid defensive effort to neutralize the Gladiators’ attack, which ran into a hot Anderson when it did break through. With this win, for only the fourth time in team’s thirteen year history, the Royals registered their thirtieth by the fiftieth game of the regular season.
The Royals travel to Greenville, South Carolina tomorrow (Sunday, February 23 @ 3:00 pm) to face the Greenville Road Warriors and Bon Secours Wellness Arena for the first time this season. 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 2:30 pm ET on the Royals Broadcast Network. Tomorrow’s game will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
End 14 02-22