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North Division Semifinals Game 1: Reading at Manchester

Friday, April 13th
North Division Semifinals Game 1: Reading at Manchester

Royals hope for road steal as team starts back-to-back   

Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (87 points, 3rd North) start the Kelly Cup Playoffs with Game 1 of the North Division Semifinals at the Manchester Monarchs (88 points, 2nd North) Friday at 7:00 p.m. The Royals are in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the ninth straight season and Manchester is making their third consecutive appearance since joining the ECHL in 2015-16. Reading won the season series, 5-4, and clinched a playoff berth with a shootout victory in the last matchup on Mar. 30.

Reading completed the regular season with 39 wins (39-24-9-0), two behind Manchester (41-25-3-3). The top-three seeds in the North Division (Adirondack, Manchester, Reading) finished within two points of each other. Adirondack won its last two games to hop Manchester for the North Division regular season title.

Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals is Sat., Apr. 14 at 6:00 p.m. in Manchester. The Royals start their march to the Kelly Cup this Friday at 7:00 p.m. with Game 1 of the North Division Semifinals at Manchester. The series shifts to Reading for Game 3 on Mon., Apr. 16, Game 4 on Wed., Apr. 18 and Game 5 on Thurs., Apr. 19 (if necessary). All playoff games at Santander Arena begin at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are available here.

The Kelly Cup Playoffs consist of four rounds, all best-of-seven. The first two rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs will be played entirely within the division, with the division winner playing the fourth-place finisher and the second-place team meeting the third-place team in the Division Semifinals. The winners of each series will meet in the Division Finals, leading to the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals.

The winner of this series meets the victor of Adirondack-Worcester. The Railers completed the regular season with 82 points.

The Royals finished the regular season with points in six of their last seven games (5-1-1-0). In front of their largest crowd of the season (6,317), Reading took the regular season finale against Norfolk, 5-2, Saturday at Santander Arena.

Tickets are now available for the Royals’ home playoff games by calling 610-898-7825. The Royals are offering 5 playoff vouchers starting at $85. Use the five vouchers at any home playoff games. The team is also providing curbside ticket service; call 610-898-7825 and a Royals ticket staff member will provide you with your tickets outside the Lion’s Den Team Store at the corner of 8th Ave. and Penn St.

Coverage of all playoff games starts 15 minutes before puck drop on RumbaReading.com. All road playoff games will be broadcast on BCTV (Channel 15 Comcast, Channel 19 Service Electric) and RumbaReading.com.

#HumboldtStrong for the playoffsThe Reading Royals will continue to collect donations and raise money for those affected by the Humboldt Broncos’ tragedy for Reading’s first two home playoff games Mon., Apr. 16 and Wed., Apr. 18 at 7:00 p.m. Proceeds from tickets purchased at this link or by calling 610-898-7825 will go to the families and others affected.

Muse one of the best Royals seasonsJohn Muse (19-5-2-0 record) finished tied for first in the league with a .931 save percentage in addition to a 2.24 goals against average. His regular season save percentage is the best of any in Royals history among goaltenders to compete in at least 20 games during a single season. Barry Brust (1.96 GAA, 2004-05) and Martin Ouellette (2.10 GAA, 2015-16) are the only other goaltenders with better goals against averages in a season playing at least 20 games.

Willows in rare airMatt Willows completed the regular season with 32 goals and 74 points, both career highs. His points total ranked 3rd in the league, joining Brian McCullough (95 points, 02-03) as the second Royals player to finish in the ECHL’s top-three. McCullough ripped in a regular season team record 39 goals and also finished third in the league’s points race.

McCullough began that season by recording the team’s first-ever hat trick (and natural hat trick – 3 straight goals) vs. Wheeling in the opener. Teammate Brad Rooney (27 goals, 87 points), finished 6th in the ECHL in points that season.

Willows started a career-long 15-game point streak Jan. 14 vs. Manchester. Since that game, he ranks second in the league with 42 points (19g), two behind Indy’s Josh Shalla. Coincidentally, the streak also ended vs. Manchester Feb. 24 when Willows netted the shootout-winning goal.

The native of Congers, NY is the sixth Royals player to score at least 30 goals in a season and the 8th Reading talent to hit the 70-point plateau.

Manchester’s Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman completed the regular season 3rd in goals (34) and 4th in points (72).

Stacking up the top scorersThe Royals had four players score at least 20 goals and six notch more than 40 points. At least one member of Reading’s top line (Matt Wilkins – Chris McCarthy – Matt Willows) was on ice for about 60% of the team’s goals from mid-January to mid-March.

Reading has recently found increased production out of secondary producers Adam Schmidt (17g, 44 pts.), Michael Huntebrinker (20g, 41 pts.) and Ryan Penny (16g, 32 pts.). Schmidt is second on the team with 13 points over the last month and has recorded at least one in 12 of the last 14 games (6g, 10a). Huntebrinker recorded a pair of multi-point games in the last two weeks of the regular season. Penny enters the playoffs on a season-long five-game point streak. He led the Royals with a pair of playoff goals last season.

On the back-end, Nolan Zajac paced Royals blue liners with 16 goals (3rd in ECHL) and 45 points.

Manchester had three players finish around a point per game – Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman (72 pts., 69 GP), Joel Lowry (39 pts., 33 GP) and Spencer Watson (45 pts., 48 GP). Zac Lynch finished second on the team with 46 points. Colton Saucerman was the top-scoring defenseman on the team with 36 assists and 41 points.

Defense and goaltending standpointThe Royals have seven active defensemen on their postseason roster and Manchester has six. Royals alternate captain Nick Luukko finished with five goals and a personal-best 21 points. Monarchs captain David Kolomatis led the Moanrchs blue line with six goals. Royals defensemen Matias Cleland was a plus-13, the team’s highest rating. Manchester’s Alexx Privatera had the top plus-minus rating on the blue line (+15).

John Muse finished tied for first in the league with a .931 save percentage and boasted a 19-5-2-0 record and 2.24 goals against average. Since Dec. 1, Muse is 14-2-0-1 with Reading and 11-2-1 with the Phantoms. Interestingly, Muse also combined for five assists (3 with Reading) this regular season. Mark Dekanich, Reading’s most-experienced playoff performer (23 postseason games), registered a 13-15-4-0 mark, 3.07 goals against average and .906 save percentage in his 10th professional season.

Four netminders appeared for Manchester during the season and Charles Williams topped the team with 42 games played (22-12-3-2, 1 SO, 2.68 GAA, .912 sv.%). Evan Cowley spent portions of the season in the AHL and came up with a 9-9-0-1 mark, 3.15 goals against average and .902 save percentage over 19 games.

Head-to-headThe Royals took the season series (5 wins, 4 losses) with wins in four of the final five meetings. Reading scored 29 goals in the series and Manchester netted 30. In Royals wins, the team outscored Manchester, 22-10.

In the last meeting Mar. 30, the Royals overcame a 3-0 deficit, tied the game with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and won, 5-4, in a shootout. Michael Huntebrinker scored his fourth shootout goal of the season. He and Matt Wilkins top the Royals with eight points in the series. Huntebrinker, Wilkins and Matt Willows (6 pts.) all have four goals in the series.

Royals netminder John Muse is 3-0-0-0 against the Monarchs this campaign, stopping 105 of 111 shots (1.95 GAA, .946 sv.%). Mark Dekanich has attained a 1-3-0-0 record in four games vs. Manchester.

On the Monarchs’ side, leading scorer Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman has pounded the Royals for nine goals and 11 points in nine games. He has three multi-goal games and has recorded at least a point in every series game. Michael Doherty (3g, 8 pts.) and Matt Schmalz (4g) were the most-dangerous scoring threats in the season series after LaVallee-Smotherman.

Evan Cowley has allowed ten goals in two starts to the Royals and was pulled in his game against the Royals Mar. 28 (22 svs, 6 GA). Netminder Charles Williams has yet to lose in regulation or overtime to the Royals (7 GP, 3-0-0-2, 1.49 GAA, .943 sv.%). The rookie Williams denied 125 of his first 130 shots in the series until the last meeting, when he gave up four on 29 shots.

2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs Tickets On SaleLock down your Kelly Cup Playoff tickets by calling 610-898-7825. A Royals team member will provide you with curbside service outside the Lion’s Den Team Store at the corner of 8th and Penn Street; just call 610-898-7825 and we will deliver your tickets without leaving your car.

The Royals are offering five playoff vouchers for $85. Use the five vouchers at any home playoff games!

Miniplans available for 2018-19!Call 610-898-7825 to learn more about 9, 12 and 18 game mini-plans for the 2018-19 season!

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.