Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (win, 36-19-1-1=74) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Evansville Icemen (loss, 26-22-3-7= 62), 5-4, at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The Icemen struck first, but the Royals bounced back to build a 4-1 lead headed into the third period, where the Icemen found their footing. Evansville rang off a pair of power play goals in the final frame to draw within one at 4-3. Reading then rebounded third period goal from captain Yannick Tifu to rebuild the lead to 5-3, but a late goal by Evansville made it a one-goal nail biter down the stretch where Reading and goaltender Riley Gill (win, 16-11-0-1, 27/31) held on through a wild late-game flurry. The win pushed the Royals record to a season-high seventeen games over .500, as Reading became the first team in the Eastern Conference to register thirty-six wins.
Evansville struck first 3:49 into the first period, when Luke Oakley charged into the offensive zone deep into the left circle, and, although well-covered, was able to shovel a back-hand that slipped by Gill high on the short-side for Oakley’s fifth of the year.
Reading tied the game 14:17 into the first, when Tifu, who would record a three point performance (1g-2a), slipped a deft back-hand out of the left corner to defenseman Matt Campanale, who cut deep into the left circle and fired a snap shot across the body of goaltender Mike Clemente (loss, 16-13-0-4, 38/33) for Campanale’s sixth of the season.
The Royals gained the lead 10:21 into the second, when Kevin Walrod forced a turnover below the goal line in Evansville’s end, stole the puck, carried around the net, cut to the low slot, turned, wheeled and fired over Clemente for his fourth of the year.
Shortly after that, Reading built the lead to 4-1 with a pair of power play goals by Domenic Monardo. The first came on the deflection of a Michal Cajkovsky blast from the high slot 13:02 into the second. 4:41 later, the Royals rang off a beautifully executed zig-zag four-pass one-touch sequence that went from d-to-d (Marvin Degon to Cajkovsky), to Tifu on the right half-wall, to Ryan Cruthers completely across the ice, to the top of the crease, where Monardo tapped it home for his twentieth of the year.
Evansville got back into it with a pair of power play goals of their own in the third. The first came 5:52 into the final frame when Jeremy Langlois broke in, cut across the top of the crease, and hit the right pipe with a back-hand. The puck slid behind Gill and back out towards the top of the crease, where a charging Alex Aleardi punched it home for his second of the year.
The next one came 7:29 into the final frame after a wild scramble around the Royals’ goal, which ended when Dylan Clarke slid one from the low slot through a pile of humanity out in front of Reading’s net and under Gill for his third of the year.
Reading regained a two-goal advantage (5-3) 9:54 into the third with what proved to be the game winning goal. Domenic Monardo carried deep into the offensive zone on the left side, drawing the attention of the Evansville defenders. He then dished back against the grain to Tifu, who was charging down the gut. Tifu stepped into a high bullet that blew by Clemente for his fifteenth of the year.
The Icemen drew back within one with just 3:12 remaining in regulation when Antoine Corbin teed up a hot rocket from the high slot that whizzed by Gill’s right ear for his sixth of the year. But that would be it for Evansville, despite the fact that they unleashed the hounds down the stretch and created several moments of heart-pounding action.
This victory stretched the Royals win streak to six straight, as the boys ran the team’s record to 13-2-0-1 in the last sixteen games played at Santander Arena.
The Royals return to action on Wednesday (March 12 @ 7:05 pm) when the team travels to First Arena in Elmira, New York, to face the Elmira Jackals. Wednesday’s game night broadcast will kick off at 6:35 pm on CBS Sports Radio 1240 am and 98.5 with the Highmark Blue Shield Warm-Up Show. As with all Royals’ road games, Wednesday’s game will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
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