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Game 31 Preview: Reading at Wheeling

Sunday, December 30th
Game 31 Preview: Reading at Wheeling

Game 31 Preview: Reading at Wheeling   Before calendar flips, Royals face traditional rival

Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (15-8-2-5, 37 pts., T-3rd North), proud ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms, hope the Wheeling Nailers (15-13-2-0, 32 pts.) drop the ball at Wesbanco Arena in a New Year’s Eve battle Monday at 6:05 p.m.The Royals have points in back-to-back games (1-0-0-1) following a 4-3 shootout loss vs. Newfoundland Friday at Santander Arena. Alex Roos scored for the second straight game and Joe Houk registered his 11th point of the month (1g, 1a). Callum Booth has points in six of his first seven Royals starts (5-1-0-1).Wheeling has dropped back-to-back games in regulation after going on a season-long nine-game point streak from Dec. 8-22. Last time out, the Nailers allowed a go-ahead goal to Kalamazoo’s Reid Gardiner with 9.1 seconds left and lost, 6-5, Friday at Wings Event Center.Reading has the best road record in the league (9-2-0-3); every other team in the league has dropped at least four road games in regulation. The Royals last played on the road Dec. 22 at Worcester and had a four-game away winning streak snapped in a 5-3 defeat. Reading is 1-0-0-0 this season at Wesbanco Arena and leads the season series, 2-0-0-1.Reading is home to face the Norfolk Admirals for the first time this season on Fri., Jan. 4 at 7:00 p.m. The Royals are also home on Wed., Jan. 9 at 7:00 p.m. vs. Adirondack.Listen to today’s game on the Mixlr App and Mixlr.com/ReadingRoyals, with pregame coverage starting 15 minutes before puck drop.Important weekend, despite the SOLThe Royals’ three-point weekend against the Growlers allowed Reading to gain a point on Newfoundland, pushing within the squad within four points of first place. Reading has made up five points on the Growlers this month and handed the team its only three December losses.Ringing in the New YearThe Royals have played seven times on New Year’s Eve (4-2-0-1) and 2018 marks the fourth straight season the Royals play on New Year’s Eve. Reading and the Thunder opposed each other on Dec. 31 from 2015-17. Reading lost last season’s game at Adirondack. The Royals and Nailers met on New Year’s Eve 2011 and 2013, with Reading skating to victories in each. Wheeling is playing for the fourth straight season on New Year’s Eve and is 1-1-1-0 over the last three.In the last Royals win on Dec. 31, Reading took a 5-2 win at Adirondack in 2016 and Robbie Czarnik netted the game-winning goal. Former Royals goalie Drew Fielding had 40 saves.Reading played its first New Year’s Eve game against Mississippi in 2004 and lost, 5-3. That was game four of an eight-game road trip. Reading reeled off wins in its next three games on Dec. 31.Rare MondayReading has played 15 games on Mondays in 17 seasons, the fewest times the Royals have played on any day of the week. The Royals play a pair of Monday contests this season, taking on Brampton at home Mon., Feb. 11. Reading is 6-6-3 on the first day of the work week.The New Year’s Eve game marks the first time the Royals have played on a Monday since Martin Luther King Day 2017 (Jan. 16) a 6-2 win.   Since Kirk MacDonald became a member of the Royals coaching staff (Assistant Coach 2014-17, Head Coach 2017-present), Reading is 4-1-1 in Monday contests.Scouting Wheeling Since matching a season-worst record of four games below .500 (7-11-1-0) on Dec. 7, the Nailers have rattled off an 8-2-1-0 record to hop out of the Central Division cellar.Over that span, Cam Brown dished a league-best 19 assists and 26 points in 12 games (9 multi-point games), while Nick Saracino scored a league-high 12 goals (11 GP, 8 multi-point games). As a result, in a three-week span, Saracino won player of the week twice and Brown took the honor two times (the pair shared the weekly award Dec. 11). Saracino tops Wheeling in goals (17) and points (37), but was loaned to Binghamton (AHL) on Dec. 27. Brown is second on the team with 34 points (8g).With former Royals netminder John Muse recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Matt O’Connor has appeared in seven straight games (5-2-0-0, 2.72 GAA, .919 sv.%, 1 SO). For the season, O’Connor is 7-4-1-0 with a 2.93 goals against average and .903 save percentage.Head to Head Reading has won the last two season series matchups and reeled off a 5-1 win at Wheeling Nov. 21. In the series, the Royals are outscoring the Nailers, 12-6. Michael Huntebrinker and Steven Swavely lead all players in the series with four points, but each are in Lehigh Valley. Josh MacDonald (2g) tops active Royals in series goals and is tied with Chris McCarthy, Frank DiChiara and Adam Schmidt for the points lead (3). Each recorded at least a point in the Nov. 21 matchup.Blue liner Kevin Spinozzi is best on Wheeling with two goals and three points in the series. Winston Day Chief (1g) and Cam Brown (2a) each have netted a pair of points.Success vs. the WheelGoing back to last campaign, the Royals are on a seven-game point streak vs. the Nailers (5-0-1-1). Reading has points in its last eight games (6-0-2-0) at Wesbanco Arena. The Royals last fell in regulation at the Nailers on Nov. 11, 2016. Since facing off the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Reading is 14-4-3-1 vs. Wheeling.Chris McCarthy, Nick Luukko and Steven Swavely have all played on the Royals since the success started in 2016-17. McCarthy has four goals and 20 points vs. Wheeling, with Swavely (4g, 11a) and Luukko (1g, 3a) contributing offensively.About the RoyalsThe Royals have been owned by serial entrepreneur Jack Gulati since 2014 and are entering their 18th 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 nine straight seasons and are four-time division champions.Listen to all Royals broadcasts at Mixlr.com/ReadingRoyals or by downloading the Mixlr App from the App Store or Google Play.