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Royals Claim Playoff Spot Despite Slipping Down the Stretch in Wheeling, 4-3

Friday, April 8th
Royals Claim Playoff Spot Despite Slipping Down the Stretch in Wheeling, 4-3

Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (­­­­­­­­­loss, 36-25-6-4=82) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, were defeated by the Wheeling Nailers (win, 36-26-5-4=81), affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, 4-3, at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.

In the final game of the regular season for the Royals at WesBanco Arena, the Royals got touched up for four consecutive goals—including three in the third period (and two in the final two minutes)—to fall for the fourth time in six tries in Wheeling. It marked the second time this season that Reading has given up a multi-goal third period lead to the Nailers. Despite the stumble, Reading still clinched a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive year because of the loss by the Elmira Jackals to the Brampton Beast earlier in the evening; but the loss did serve to thwart a last gasp effort to win the East Division title, which was claimed by the Manchester Monarchs with Reading’s loss.

Reading pounded the early pressure but despite repeated point blank looks couldn’t solve Wheeling’s starting goaltender Franky Palazzese. The Royals finally broke through 14:44 into the first period while Reading was playing with the man advantage when Yannick Tifu got a clean look from the right circle and ripped a snap shot across the body of Palazzese for his nineteenth of the year.

The Royals took a 2-0 lead 6:37 into the second when Nikita Kashirsky won a neutral zone face-off directly to Maxim Lamarche who settled almost directly on the center dot, took one stride towards the offensive zone and fired an 85 foot slap shot that buzzed through the legs of Palazzese for his fifth of the season.

Reading built the lead to 3-0 with a beautiful passing sequence off the rush 10:14 into the second period when Joe Rehkamp carried across the offensive blue line and slipped a pass to Kevin Sundher, who was breaking down the left side of the ice. Sundher threaded a cross-ice pass back to the trailer—defenseman Kevin Young—who stepped up and ripped a hot snap shot high short side on Palazzese for his seventh of the year. That goal chased Palazzese in favor of Casey DeSmith, who came in for the remainder of the game.

Wheeling kick started their come-back with a power play goal 16:30 into the second period. Shane Bakker fired a shot off the top of the right circle. Goaltender Adam Morrison went into the butterfly to make the save, but the puck was loose and pinballing around Morrison amongst heavy crashing traffic. Ty Loney was able to pull the puck out of the pile to stuff in his seventh of the season.

The Nailers drew within one on their second power play goal of the game early into the third. 1:03 into the third period, just as a penalty was about to be assessed against Reading, goaltender Morrison went down in the crease and was attended to by the Royals’ athletic trainer. Morrison was obviously struggling, but stayed in the game. Twenty-two seconds into the power play chance, Clark Seymour got off a hot one-timer from the top of the right circle that eluded Morrison for his ninth of the year. After that goal, Morrison left the game in favor of goaltender Matt Skoff.

The Royals battled hard down the stretch, but back-to-back late goals off the rush by Wheeling’s John McCarron spoiled the team’s effort to win their third straight at WesBanco. The first one came with 1:56 remaining in regulation when Riley Brace found McCarron coming down the mid-slot for a low-blocker bullet; and the second one—the tie-breaking game winner—came with just 58.3 left in regulation when McCarron charged through the neutral zone, deep into the left circle where he sniped another rocket high blocker for his fourteenth of the year.

Reading had a couple of waning moment bids but was unable to solve DeSmith, who held on for the victory, which served to clinch a playoff spot for the Nailers, as well.

The Royals return home to Santander Arena tomorrow (Saturday, April 9 @ 7:00 pm) for the final game of the 2015-16 regular season when the team will face the Nailers for the eleventh and final time of the regular season. The Royals will celebrate “FANdemonium” with prize giveaways for fans at every stoppage in play. The game night broadcast for Saturday’s matchup can be heard live on CBS SportsRadio 1240 am and 98.5 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. Season Tickets for the 2015-16 Reading Royals ECHL season are currently available.

For more information about the Royals, call 610-898-7825 or log onto www.royalshockey.com.

End 16 04-08