Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (win, 35-19-1-1=72) 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, 26-21-3-7= 62), 5-1, at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
For only the third time in the last ten played, the Royals struck first on a breakaway by Brandon Blandina mid-way into the first and got what would prove to be the game winner from Sean Wiles thirty-two seconds later. Reading would build and ultimately hold a four goal lead and extend the team’s current win streak to five and push the team’s record to a season-high sixteen games over .500. Goaltender Riley Gill (win, 15-11-0-1, 32/33) made thirty-three saves in holding the opposition to just one goal for the second time in a row and eighth time this year.
Reading struck 10:10 into the first when Julien Cayer sprang Blandina on a clear-cut breakaway which a deft chip at the offensive blue line. Blandina charged down the middle and ripped a bullet over the left arm of goaltender Garrett Bartus (loss, 7-6-3-3, 31/36) for his sixth of the season.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Royals generated a scoring flurry in which Ryan Cruthers, who would end up with two assists on the night for his team leading twelfth multi-point performance of the season, fed Sean Wiles for a point blank bullet that would beat Bartus for Wiles’ sixteenth of the year—and what would prove to be his fourth game winner of the season.
1:17 into the second, Reading stretched the lead to 3-0 when Yannick Tifu, planted at the top of the crease, deflected a blast from the high slot by Michal Cajkovsky that slipped between the legs of Bartus for Tifu’s thirteenth of the year.
Tifu bagged his second of night six and a half minutes later while Reading was playing with the man advantage. He threw what appeared to be an intended diagonal-down pass out of the right circle that deflected off the legs of Bartus and ended up in the net to make it 4-0.
Evansville broke through on a power play goal of their own 12:23 into the second after an extended sequence of scoring chances. Icemen defender Matt Krug fired a shot from the mid-slot. The shot went off the body of a Reading player attempting to block the shot and fluttered over the left arm of Gill for Krug’s eleventh of the year.
Reading regained the four goal advantage at 5-1 6:25 into the third period when Bryant Molle fired a long pass from the defensive blue-line to Kevin Walrod at the offensive blue-line. Walrod split a pair of Evansville defenders, flew down the slot and drilled a hot bullet behind Bartus for his third of the year.
Evansville pushed hard in the third, outshooting the Royals 15-5, but Gill and the Royals held strong to push the team’s record to 4-0-0-1 against the Icemen.
The Royals and Icemen go at it again tomorrow (Sunday, March 9 @ 4:05 pm) at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Zooperstars will be in Reading on Sunday to whip things up with their wild antics. Sunday’s game will also be a Berks Packing Dollar Day when hot dogs, soda, popcorn and nachos are just $1.00. Sunday’s game night broadcast will kick off at 3:35 pm on CBS Sports Radio 1240 am and 98.5 will kick off with the Highmark Blue Shield Warm-Up Show on the Royals Broadcast Network presented by Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
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