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Game 69 Preview: Reading at Adirondack

Saturday, March 31st
Game 69 Preview: Reading at Adirondack

Royals seek second in the North Division with win over Thunder

Glens Falls, NY – The Reading Royals (37-23-8-0, 82 pts., 3rd North) get set for the final season series tangle with the Adirondack Thunder (38-23-3-4, 83 pts., 2nd North) Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Royals clinched a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the ninth straight season Friday, defeating Manchester, 5-4, in a shootout. Ryan Penny scored twice and tied the game with 2:16 to go in the third. Adirondack was idle Friday but clinched a playoff berth with Wheeling’s loss.

A regulation win Saturday puts Reading second in the North Division with three games to go in the regular season. The Royals are three points behind Manchester for first in the North Division. Reading has won three straight games.

The Royals require a victory to take the season series from Adirondack. Since starting the series with six straight wins, the Thunder have clapped back with wins in six of seven. The teams play 14 times this regular season and the Royals are 7-5-1-0.

Coverage of Saturday’s game starts at 6:45 p.m. on Rumba 1340, RumbaReading.com and BCTV. Listen in during first intermission for our Royals Trivia Question of the Night and a chance to win a gift card to Jimmy G’s Railroad House in Sinking Spring, PA. Also check out Royals Radio Recon live from 6-7 p.m. at Jimmy G’s at 152 Woodrow Ave. in Sinking Spring this Tues., Apr. 3.

Adirondack is coming off a 2-0 loss to Worcester on Wednesday. The Thunder have been shut out twice in their last three games and failed to solve Mitch Gillam (27 saves) The Thunder are 9-3-1-0 since meeting the Royals Feb. 24. Four of those nine wins have been in overtime.

The Royals have two home games remaining. On Wed., Apr. 4, the team hosts Worcester for a postgame autograph session at 7:00 p.m. Next Sat., Apr. 7, the Royals will play the final game of the season against the Norfolk Admirals. Reading is at Adirondack Saturday at 7:00 p.m. for the 14th and final game of the season series. The Royals have a home-and-home set against Norfolk next week.

30 and 200 for Willows

Matt Willows recorded his 200th professional point and became the sixth Royals skater to hit 30 goals in a season, scoring in the second period Friday vs. Manchester. Willows is the first Royals player with 30 goals in a campaign since Olivier Labelle in 2014-15. The team record is 39 by Brian McCullough in 2002-03.

Willows has 116 points with Reading since joining the team early in 2015-16. He leads the Royals with 68 this campaign.

First three-goal comebackThe Royals earned their first victory of the season when trailing by three goals. Reading has 11 come-from-behind victories in 2017-18. After allowing the opening three goals, the Royals stormed back with three in the second to tie it. Ryan Penny started the come back with a strike early in the second. With the Royals down, 4-3, in the final three minutes, Penny scored the tying goal. The Royals have a pair this season with the extra attacker on.

Clee ClubMatias Cleland had a pair of assists Friday and a plus-two rating, extending to a career-long three-game point streak (1g, 3a). The 24-year-old rookie scored his first Royals goal in Wednesday’s win.

Over the last three games, the native of Longmont, CO has a team-best plus-seven rating. Since Mar. 10, Cleland has notched five points and a plus-12 rating.

He has played in all 38 Royals games since joining the team (1g, 12a) in December from Orlando.

Huntebrinker close to elusive rookie mark

Michael Huntebrinker needs one goal to become the 9th Royals rookie to record 20 in his rookie season. Domenic Menardo holds the squad record for most by a rookie, scoring 27 goals (46 points) in 2013-14. The season before, Stan Galiev netted 23 (47 pts.) and the Royals won the Kelly Cup.

From 2001-09, six Royals skaters achieved the milestone: Brad Rooney (26, 2001-02), Alex Kim (22, 2002-03), Peter Hay (20, 2003-04), Joe Zappala (23, 2006-07), Dany Roussin (22, 2005-06) and Dan Radisuela (21, 2008-09).

Huntebrinker leads the Royals with four multi-goal games this season. He netted his first professional hat trick Dec. 31 vs. Adirondack, sealing his third goal and fourth point with an empty-net strike in the final minute. In 60 games, Huntebrinker has 38 points.

Season series: Royals lead, 7-5-1-0

The 14-game series has had four one-goal games and the last matchup on Feb. 24 was a 3-2 Adirondack OT win. Each team has two wins in contests decided by one. Adirondack’s James Henry scored in overtime last series matchup; seven of his 18 goals this season have been against the Royals. The last two Royals losses have been one-goal defeats.

In Royals wins, Reading is outscoring Adirondack, 29-13. When the Thunder win, the team has scored 25 goals and limited Reading to 12.

The Thunder have won five straight series games. Reading started off the series with six straight wins. The Royals last earned a series win Dec. 30, when Michael Huntebrinker recorded his first professional hat trick and four-point game. Huntebrinker leads the Royals with five goals in the series. Matt Willows (13 points) and Nolan Zajac (12 points) are the Royals point leaders vs. the Thunder.

Rookie Pierre-Luc Mercier has 40 points this campaign and leads all players with 16 in the series (4g). He has points in seven straight games against the Royals (2g, 10a).

Defenseman Desmond Bergin (3g, 7a) and Mercier are the only two Thunder players with more than 10 points in the series.

Between the pipes, Mark Dekanich has three wins in six tries against the Thunder this campaign. He is 5-2-2-0 with the Royals vs. the Thunder and 9-5-4-0 all-time. Branden Komm has faced the Thunder once, but he was with Idaho at the time. John Muse is 4-2-0-0 vs. the Thunder this season (14 GA), but dropped the last two games.

Thunder goaltender Drew Fielding has won five straight starts against his former club, boasts a 5-1-0-0 record and has a pair of shutouts.

Possible playoff matchupThe Royals and Thunder would meet in the 2018 North Division Semifinals if the Kelly Cup Playoffs started today. The teams have never met in the playoff during the Thunder’s three-year ECHL tenure.

Both have lost in the same round in each of the last two years. Last season, the Thunder won first in the North but bowed out to Manchester in six games. The Royals finished second and also lost in six games to Brampton.

In 2015-16, Adirondack lost in double overtime of Game 7 to South Carolina in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Mark Dekanich played the first 70:41 for the Stingrays before leaving due to injury. Joe Devin scored the double-OT winner. Reading also fell in overtime of game 7 during the second round to Wheeling.

The last time an affiliated minor professional team from Glens Falls, NY made it past the second round was in 1991-92 when Head Coach Barry Melrose led the Adirondack Red Wings to the AHL’s Calder Cup. The Royals have made it past the second round four times in team history.New and young facesSince the meeting Feb. 24, the end of the NCAA hockey regular season has allowed fresh faces to join the lineup. On the Royals side, Viktor Liljegren (RPI) and Jack Riley (Mercyhurst) have stepped into the lineup.

The Thunder have used G Olivier Mantha (Alaska-Anchorage), Adam Larkin (Yale), Bo Pieper (Quinnipiac), Ryan Schmelzer (Canisius) and Mike Szmatula (Minnesota).

Last season, the Royals signed Michael Huntebrinker after his Minnesota State career and the rookie is one of the team’s top-five scorers. Matt Wilkins graduated from Union in 2016 and inked with the Thunder for a pair of games at the end of that season.

Thunder scouting report:

Shane Conacher is having his best month of the season (6g, 9a) to boost to a team-high 41 assists and 58 points. He has had a pair of multi-goal games this season and both have been this month. Two games ago, he ripped in a pair vs. Manchester to savor a 5-3 Thunder win.

Brian Ward has 21 goals since the calendar turned to 2018; he had eight in January, seven in February and six in March. He has 28 goals this season to lead the team. Last season, Ward recorded 27 goals and 49 points.

Over 29 games, Drew Fielding is 17-8-2-0 with a 3.12 goals against average and .902 save percentage. Olivier Mantha has played in six professional games since finishing his senior season at Alaska-Anchorage (3-2-0-1, 2.78 GAA, .907 sv.%).

2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs DatesWhen the Royals’ dates in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs are set, be the first to know by signing up here!

Postgame autograph session, Wed., Apr. 4 vs. WOR at 7:00 p.m.Check out a postgame autograph session with four players, presented by Rieck’s Printing. It’s the final game of the season series between Reading and Worcester and the Royals lead the series, 7-5-1-0.

Tickets are available here.FANdemonium, prizes at every whistle and last home game of regular season, Sat., Apr. 7 vs. NOR at 7:00 p.m.We are giving away Royals prizes at EVERY WHISTLE! Plus, the first 2,500 fans receive a Royals rally towel, courtesy of Tower Health. Tickets are available here.

Season ticket holders: stick around after the game for a chance to win a game-used Royals jersey with “Jerseys off our Back” promotion. You must be present to win.

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.

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.