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Royals Take Opening Salvo in Gwinnett, 4-2

Friday, February 21st
Royals Take Opening Salvo in Gwinnett, 4-2

Duluth, GA – The Reading Royals (win, 29-18-1-1=60) 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, 18-28-2-2= 40), 4-2, at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.

For the sixth straight game, the opposition scored the game’s first goal, but the Royals mounted a comeback in this one, scoring with less than a minute left in the first to tie things at one and then pulling away with a pair in the second, including a power play game winner by Josh Brittain, who had three points on the night. Although it may not look like it on the score-sheet, one of the Royals stars was goaltender Riley Gill (win, 13-10-0-1, 25/27), who made a number of spectacular saves to keep the team afloat in more than a couple of tough moments in the game. The win pushed the Royals road record to 16-8-1-0 this season.

Gwinnett struck first 11:57 into a mistake-filled first period. Maxime Legault stole the puck in the neutral zone and charged off on a clean breakaway. Gill rejected Legault’s original bid, but he kept the play alive and forced the puck towards the right pipe where a battling Bobby Hughes forced it under and through Gill for his eighth of the year.

Reading tied things before the end of the first when they hit pay-dirt off the rush. Ryan Cruthers carried deep into the low right slot before dropping to a trailing T.J. Syner, who looked like he wanted to shoot, but instead re-directed the puck to defenseman Brett Flemming, who had joined the rush and was perfectly placed at the left pipe to stuff it home for his fourth of the year with 43.6 seconds remaining in the period.

The Royals took the lead 7:36 into the second when Brittain slipped a highlight-reel blind, behind-the-back diagonal-down pass from just below the left face-off dot to the right side of the crease, where the weak-side winger, Domenic Monardo, stepped in to tap home his team-leading sixteenth of the year.

Reading got the game winner on the team’s fourth power play of the night. Cruthers was given all sorts of space in the high slot and he took it, cutting to the middle and ripping a snapper that beat goaltender Mathieu Corbeil (loss, 5-4-1-0, 24/28) but clanked the left pipe. The puck, however, skidded across the goal line to the right side, where Brittain batted it home for his eighth of the year.

The Royals got some insurance 11:20 into the third, when Brittain and Sean Wiles combined for a sequence of scoring chances that ended when Wiles slipped one from below the goal line on the left side to the high slot, a point that Brandon Blandina came off the bench to fill with a low snapper that slid under Corbeil for his fifth of the year.

Gwinnett got a little life when they scored four seconds after the conclusion of their fourth power play chance. A shot by defenseman Rob Kwiet from the point hit a body in front of Gill causing a scramble around the net. Marshall Everson kept the play alive until Casey Piero-Zabotel roofed one from along the goal line for his third of the year with 3:43 left.

From there, however, Reading was able to keep the Gladiator attack at bay and push the team’s record back to the season high-water mark of eleven games over .500 for the third time this year.

The Royals and Gladiators go at it again tomorrow (Saturday, February 22 @ 7:05 pm) for the second in the two game set at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia. 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 6:35 pm ET on the Royals Broadcast Network. Please note that there will be no telecast tomorrow on BCTV in Berks County, Pennsylvania because BCTV is conducting their annual telethon on Saturday night.

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