Teams Per: 1 2 3
REA: 2 0 2 =4
WHL: 1 0 0 =1
REA: 34-24-6-4 = 78 (t-5th Eastern Conference)
WHL: 34-26-4-4 = 76 (8th Eastern Conference)
REA: Morrison (win) 8-6-3-3 (27/28)
WHL: Palazzese (loss): 19-15-1-1 (37/41)
Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (win, 34-24-6-4=78) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, defeated the Wheeling Nailers (win, 34-26-4-4=76), affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, 4-1, at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
In the first of three critical late season matchups with Wheeling, the Royals scored early and led wire-to-wire to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Reading got four goals from four different players—one on a four-on-three power play and one while playing short-handed—to push the team’s record to 7-1-1-1 in the last ten. The win also pushed the Royals unbeaten streak on the road to six (5-0-0-1), as Reading logged the team’s twentieth road victory of the season to mark the sixth consecutive year in which the team has won twenty or more on the road. With the win, the Royals remained tied for fifth place (with the Adirondack Thunder) in the hotly contested—and far from decided—Eastern Conference playoff race.
Reading struck 3:25 into the first period when Mike Pelech set up defenseman Jesper Pettersson in the high slot for a hot bullet into a mass of traffic. The puck fell to the top of the crease, where Kevin Sundher dug the puck out of the pile and chipped a backhand across the body of goaltender Franky Palazzese for his fifth of the year.
Reading took a two-goal lead on a four-on-three power play 12:21 into the first. Cam Reid started a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence out of the right circle. He sent it high in the slot to Justin Crandall, who in turn slipped a perfect pass to the top of the crease, where Pelech was wide open and all alone. Pelech spun 270 degrees to protect the puck and stuffed it behind Palazzese for his eleventh of the year.
Wheeling broke through with 1:11 remaining in the first period when Ty Loney walked into the right circle and ripped a heavy rising slap shot. Goaltender Adam Morrison got a big chunk of the puck with the cuff of the glove, but the puck fluttered high in the air and over top of Morrison. Defenseman Brett Stern came charging hard to the top of the crease and reached around Morrison to tap the fluttering puck into the net for his seventh of the year. Although there was some question as to whether Stern hit the puck with a high stick, it was ruled a good goal.
After a scoreless second period, Reading bagged a critical third-period insurance goal when Reid sprang Brandon Alderson down the right wing side on a two-on-one break with Crandall. Alderson carried to the top of the right circle and landed a brilliant cross-ice saucer to Crandall, who uncorked the one-time laser for his sixteenth of the year.
The Royals’ penalty kill was forced to go to work in the third—and on the second power play chance for the Nailers, Reading capitalize while playing a man short. First, Kevin Goumas was awarded a short-handed penalty shot after getting tomahawked on a breakaway 13:12 into the period. Although Palazzese rejected the penalty shot, Goumas exacted his revenge fifty-four seconds later on a short-handed two-on-one when Crandall landed another cross-ice saucer in Goumas’ wheel-house for a one-timer that blew by Palazzese for his eighth of the year.
The Royals return home to Santander Arena tomorrow (Saturday, April 2 @ 7:00 pm) when the team will face the Norfolk Admirals. The organization will host Autism Awareness Night, and the team will give away a ‘Slapshot’ Stress Reliever courtesy of Reading Health System. On Saturday, the team will wear special jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game to raise funds for Unending Promise and the Autism Society of Berks County. 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 04-01