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Game 67 Preview: Manchester at Reading

Wednesday, March 28th
Game 67 Preview: Manchester at Reading

Four home games left in regular season

Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (35-23-8-0, 78 pts., 3rd North), proud ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, begin a back-to-back at home against the Manchester Monarchs (40-21-3-2, 85 pts., 1st North) Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Meet four players after tonight’s Royals game with a postgame photo and autograph session, presented by Rieck’s Printing. Purchase tickets here.

Reading has started a stretch of three straight games against the North Division’s top-two teams. The Royals host Manchester Wednesday and Friday and are at second-place Adirondack Saturday. There are six games to go in the regular season. Four of the six are against North Division opponents. The regular season concludes Apr. 7.

The Royals magic number to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs is seven. A combination of two Reading regulation wins and a pair of Worcester regulation losses puts Reading in the postseason.

In Reading’s last contest Saturday vs. Worcester, Mark Dekanich swept away 28 shots for his third shutout of the season in a 3-0 win. Brian Morgan, Mark Bennett (1g, 1a) and Michael Huntebrinker scored. Bennett recorded his third multi-point game of the season.

Since suffering a four-game losing streak, the Monarchs have rattled off wins in seven of eight to improve to 19 games above .500. The team dropped, 5-3, vs. Adirondack Saturday, but clinched a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with Worcester’s loss.

Reading has taken two of the last three season series matchups and fell last time vs. Manchester, 4-1, Mar. 21. Matt Willows scored his 29th of the season, but Charles Williams made 19 saves.

Willows in rare companyMatt Willows is one goal away from 30 this season. If he nets it, the New Hampshire graduate would be the sixth Royals player to reach the 30-goal plateau in a single season. The last to do it, Olivier Labelle, had 30 goals and 71 points in the 2014-15 season. Labelle is the Royals’ all-time leader with 128 goals. Brian McCullough (39), Steve Rymsha (38) and Doug Christiansen (35) have the most in a Royals single season. Greg Hogeboom (2006-07) and Labelle are next in line with 30.

Willows has also appeared in all 66 Royals games. In team history, 14 Reading players have skated in 72 regular season games.

With 67 points, Willows needs three to become the 8th Reading player to hit 70 in a single season. McCullough holds the team’s single-season mark with 95 in the 2002-03 campaign. Brad Rooney is next with 87 and also holds the team record for most assists in a season (60).

Home winsThe Royals are 21-10-1-0 at Santander Arena, the best home record in the North Division. Reading has possessed the North’s top home mark since starting the regular season 7-0-0-0 at Santander Arena.

With the 3-0 victory Saturday vs. Worcester, the team has outscored opponents, 117-87, in home games, the fifth-best differential in the league.

Reading has six games left in the regular season and four at home, giving the Royals a chance to match the second-most single-season wins the team has had at Santander Arena. If the Royals win out at home, the team would register a 25-10-1 (52 points) mark. Reading’s record for home victories in a season is 26-8-2 (2012-13).

Last season, the Royals were 20-14-2 at Santander Arena.

All time, the Royals are 343-211-54 in home games.

He’ll win (and shut you out)Mark Dekanich’s last two victories have been shutouts, including Saturday’s 28-for-28 performance vs. Worcester. After starting with 10 saves in each the first and second, “DexShow” closed the door with eight denials in the third. He also helped quarterback the Royals to a 3-for-3 effort on the penalty kill.

Prior to his dominance Saturday, Dekanich had a 22-save shutout Feb. 3 at Norfolk. In three of the last four Dekanich wins, he has denied 127 of 128 shots (0.25 GAA, .992 save percentage, 3 SO). The most saves he’s ever had in a shutout came Dec. 15 when he trapped 50 Wheeling shots in a 4-0 Royals victory. The only goal Dekanich has surrendered in a victory since then is to Norfolk Captain Brodie Dupont on Feb. 2.

For the season, the 10th-year professional from North Vancouver, BC has an 11-14-4-0 record, 3.00 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Season series assessmentThe Royals seek to even the season series, 4-4, with a win Wednesday. The final two games of the series are at Santander Arena, where Reading looks for its first home victory against Manchester.

Nick Luukko (1g), Michael Huntebrinker (4g) Matt Willows (3g) are tied for a Royals season-series high five points. Two players to look out for on the score sheet are Chris McCarthy and Adam Schmidt. McCarthy is second on the Royals with 50 points, but only three have been vs. Manchester. All three of the points (1g, 2a) have come over the last three meetings. Schmidt has 37 points on the campaign and picked up his first point of the series Mar. 21.

Branden Komm is 1-0-0-0 against his former team, making 35 saves in victory Feb. 25. Mark Dekanich won his first start of the season vs. Manchester and is 1-3-0-0 this campaign. Dekanich has played in 15 games vs. Manchester in his career, including five when the team was in the AHL.

In the last matchup, Manchester’s usual strong suspects in the season series provided points. Colton Saucerman (2a) bounced up to seven points in the series, Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman spanked in a pair to give him eight goals and ten points vs. Reading and Michael Doherty recorded an empty-net goal to give him seven series points (2g, 5a).

Manchester Player to Watch: Charles Williams

Goaltender Charles Williams has appeared in 38 games (22-10-3-1) during his rookie campaign, including five against the Royals with a 3-0-0-1 record. He’s allowed five goals in five games, recording one shutout and a .958 save percentage. In his only start at Santander Arena, he won and kicked away 32 of 34 shots.

The Monarchs defense has helped Williams in his games against the Royals; on average, he is facing 23.6 shots per game (113 saves on 118 shots). In those same games, the Monarchs have averaged about 34 shots/game and the Royals attempt approximately 29 a contest (206 shots for, 241 shots against).

The Canton, Michigan native has a .915 save percentage on the season, fifth among rookies.

Williams has started four of the five games he’s played against Reading; in his lone relief appearance, he replaced Branden Komm (at that time a Monarch) 8:03 into the second period on January 14 after Michael Huntebrinker recorded his second of the night for a 5-2 lead. The Royals ran away for a 6-2 win in that game.

Postgame photo and autograph session, Wed., Mar. 28 vs. MAN at 7:00 p.m.Join us after the game for a postgame photo autograph session with four players, thanks to Rieck’s printing.

Tickets are available here.

Pucks N’ Paws Night, Fri., Mar. 30 vs. MAN at 7:00 p.m.The first 2,500 fans receive a Royals team picture. It’s also Pucks ‘N Paws Night and Wiener Dog Races. There will be a special puck drop and a team poster giveaway, courtesy of Tower Health and Rieck’s Printing. It’s also Girl Scout Night, benefitting Eastern PA Girl Scouts.

Tickets are available here.2018-19 season tickets now availableTop full-season benefits include: exclusive Reading Hockey Club per seat gift, discounted rate off regular ticket prices, ticket exchange, preseason meet and greet, exclusive season ticket holder events, advanced entry and a chance to win and the Royals Owner’s Suite for a game. Call 610-898-7825 and visit to join the Royals family or renew season tickets for the 2018-19 season. Visit royalshockey.com/tickets/season-tickets to learn more.

About the RoyalsThe Royals have been owned by serial entrepreneur Jack Gulati since 2014 and are in their 17th ECHL season. Proudly affiliated with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Reading plays in the Santander Arena, located in downtown Reading, PA at 700 Penn Street. The Royals won the Kelly Cup in 2013, have made the playoffs in eight straight seasons and are four-time division champions.

Reading Royals Mobile AppHead to the App Store and Google Play to download the new Reading Royals app on your smartphone! Stay up-to-date with team news, receive notifications and purchase tickets for your next experience at Santander Arena.

Broadcast CoverageAll Royals game can be heard on Rumba 1340 AM and the iHeartRadio app by searching “Rumba 1340”. The pregame show starts 15 minutes before puck drop. Watch Royals games on ECHL.tv. Reading away games are shown locally on BCTV.