Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (loss, 37-20-1-1=76) 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 Wheeling Nailers (win, 30-24-1-5= 66), 5-1, at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
The Royals fell behind on an early goal by Cody Sylvester and, despite getting a goal from Ryan Cruthers late in the first, were never able to catch the streaking Nailers after Sylvester bagged back-to-back goals in the second. The loss snapped the Royals seven game win streak and dropped the team back to second place in the Eastern Conference.
Wheeling struck 2:25 into the first, when Sylvester bagged the first of what would be three on the night. Carter Rowney, who would end up with four points in the game (1g-3a) and played to a plus-five, set up Mike Ratchuk for a move down the slot. Ratchuk dished to Sylvester who was wide open and all alone at the right side of the crease and roofed a quick snap shot for his eighteenth of the year.
Rowney made it 2-0 10:04 into the second on a similarly wide open opportunity at the right side of the net. On this one, Chaz Johnson powered his way out of the left corner into the blue paint. Goaltender Riley Gill (loss, 16-12-0-1, 8/12 in 32:21) made the original save, but the puck slid directly to Rowney who fired it off the left pad of Gill and in for his twelfth of the year.
Reading drew within one 14:26 into the first, when Michal Cajkovsky carried into the offensive zone and fired a wrist-pass along the ice and down the slot where a charging Cruthers nicked the puck just enough to cause it to slide five-hole on goaltender Mike Condon (win, 18-11-0-4, 27/28) for his thirteenth of the year.
But that would be it for the Royals, as the Nailers rang off three more, including a pair by Sylvester in the second, the first of which came on a snap shot out of the right circle that beat Gill under the glove on the short-side 7:46 in; and the second coming when Sylvester’s shot from deep on the right side deflected off the stick of a Reading defender and fluttered across the body of Gill to complete the hat trick with his twentieth of the year.
Shortly after that goal, Reading changed goaltenders, with Brandon Anderson (no decision, 14/15 in 27:39) coming on in substitution to finish things out. He would get touched up for one in the third, when Reading coughed one up in the defensive zone, allowing Tom Kuhnhackl to step down the middle and rip one bar-and-in from the low slot for his second of the year.
The loss, which snapped a three-game win streak for Gill, dropped Reading to 9-4-1-0 against the Nailers this season with one more game to be played between the two teams in the regular season—this Sunday at Santander Arena in Reading.
The Royals return to action tomorrow (Saturday, March 15 @ 7:05 pm) when the team will face the Elmira Jackals at Santander Arena. That night, the Royals host St. Hat Trick’s Day at Santander Arena when some lucky fan could win $10,000 courtesy of the Reading Eagle and Manor Golf Course if a member of the Royals’ team bags a hattrick. On Saturday, the first 1000 fans 15 years of age and older will also receive a green Royals’ bandana courtesy of Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products. On Saturday, there will also be another Saturday Night Shoot for Cash courtesy of Diamond Credit Union. Saturday’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.
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