Teams Per: 1 2 3
WHL: 2 0 5=7
REA: 1 2 1=4
WHL: 27-23-2-3 = 59 (2nd Place North Division)
REA: 27-22-5-3 = 62 (3rd Place East Division)
WHL: Palazzese (WIN) 17-14-1-1 (43/47) (59:53)
REA: Knapp (LOSS) 10-10-0-1 (25/30) (57:40) (2 eng)
Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (Loss, 27-22-5-3 = 62) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, were defeated by the Wheeling Nailers (Win, 27-23-2-3 = 59) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, 7-4, at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
In a Friday evening showdown, the Royals began a three game home-stand with the first of a back-to-back set against the Nailers, which proved to be a back-and-forth affair until Wheeling ran away with things by virtue of a five goal third.
The Royals got out of the gate first, but the Nailers bounced back with back-to-back goals to gain their first lead mid-way into the first. Reading stormed out in the second and generated sixteen shots which led to a pair of goals to retake the lead. But the third period belonged to the Nailers, who rang off two quick goals to regain the lead and then boat-raced the Royals to the final buzzer on the strength of a late game breakaway and couple of empty netters.
For Reading, this marked the second game in the last three played against Wheeling in which the Royals held a lead into the third period, but still lost in regulation—and the twelfth time this year that the team held a lead at some point in the game only to fail to gain the two points in the standings.
7:11 into action, the Royals grabbed an early lead when Cam Reid beat goaltender Franky Palazzese with a hot snapper out of the right circle. After a misplayed clearing attempt by Palazzese, Brandon Alderson was able to swipe the puck off the stick of a Wheeling player and dish a pass to the open Reid, who was cutting through the right circle to bag his first of the night and thirteenth of the year.
The Nailers tied the game when a Reading defender gained what appeared to be clean possession in the left circle of the defensive zone. However, the defender mishandled the puck directly to the stick of the Nailers’ Riley Brace, who had clear sailing across the top of the crease for a deft back-hand chip over the catching glove of goaltender Connor Knapp for Brace’s twentieth of the year.
1:24 of that, Wheeling defenseman James Melindy, who joined the Nailers today, paid immediate dividends when he took a quick snap shot from a sharp angle deep in the left circle that floated across the body Knapp and caught the far side of the net for Melindy’s fourth of the year, giving the Nailers their first lead at 2-1.
The Royals regained their legs at the start of the second and tied the game at two 3:12 into the period, when Yannick Tifu gained possession deep in the left corner, carried all the way to the point, when he spun 270 degrees and fired a pin-point diagonal-down pass through any number of players to the top crease, where a waiting Cam Reid slammed the puck home for his second of the night and fourteenth of the year.
Reading re-took the lead at 3-2 8:15 into the second on the team’s third power play chance of the night. After an extended sequence of offensive zone puck possession, Brandon Alderson settled at the left half wall and fired a hard snap shot that Nikita Kashirsky nicked on the way in, causing the puck to flutter by Palazzese on the short-side for Kashirsky’s twelfth of the year—six of which have been scored in ten games played for Reading.
The third belonged to the Nailers—pretty much from the face-off to start play in the final frame all the way to the final buzzer. After several early waves of offensive attack, the Nailers re-tied the game at three 6:13 into the third when Matthew Maione drilled a perfect wrist pass from the left point to Cody Wydo, who was wide open and all alone at the top of the crease for an quick one-time snapper under and through Knapp for his fifteenth of the year.
1:31 after that, Wheeling re-took the lead (at 4-3) for what would prove to be for good when Tyler Biggs, also playing in his first game as a Nailer, took a shot out of the left circle that fluttered through Knapp for his first ECHL goal of the year.
Reading pressed hard at that point and created a couple of counter-punch chances, but 17:05 into the final frame, Wheeling put a nail in the coffin of that come-back effort, when Riley Brace threaded a perfect hundred-foot pass from deep in the defensive zone to the offensive blue-line where Wydo took the puck on the fly for a clean breakaway. Wydo went forehand-backhand, five-hole for his second of the period and sixteenth of the year.
The Royals didn’t give up and actually bagged a pulled-goaltender, sixth attacker goal with 1:49 left to close the lead back to one (at 5-4), when Jesper Pettersson fired a hard shot from the left point that Robbie Czarnik re-directed behind Palazzese for his twenty-fourth of the season.
But that would prove to be too little, too late, particularly because the Nailers racked up a pair long range empty-netters—a 140 shot by Wydo to complete his hattrick and a 90 footer by Jordan Kwas with 35 seconds left to close out the victory and push the Royals record to 0-6-1-0 on home ice on Friday nights this season.
The Royals and Nailers will square off tomorrow night (March 5 @ 7 p.m.) at Santander Arena, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Tomorrow night is also Scout Night & Mascot Mania!; Commemorative Puck Number Four giveaway courtesy of Reading Health System (first 2000); Special Performance by Fur Circus; Intermission Performance Honoring “Slapshot’s Fifteenth Birthday” by Fifteen of His Fine, Furry Friends; Royals wear Boy Scout-Inspired Specialty Jersey with Post-Game Auction to Benefit Hawk Mountain Council; Diamond Credit Union Saturday Night Shoot for Community younity; Post-Game Scout-Sleepover with Movie Presentation on Center-Hung Scoreboard (All Scouts Invited). Saturday’s matchup can be heard live on CBS SportsRadio 1240 AM and 98.5 FM in Reading, Pennsylvania, starting with the pre-game warm-up show presented by Highmark Blue Shield at 6:30 pm Eastern Time. Streaming audio is available free of charge on the Royals’ website (follow the ‘headset’ icon); and streaming video is available on a pay-per-view basis through ECHL.TV.
For more information about the Royals, call 610-898-7825 or log onto www.royalshockey.com.
End 16 03-04