Reading, PA - Matthew Strome and Steven Swavely scored and put the Reading Royals within a goal of the Worcester Railers, but the home team fell, 5-2, Saturday at Santander Arena.
Kirill Ustimenko (4 GA, 24 Saves) stood strong through pristine Worcester chances once the team fell down by three. Reading scored two straight goals to pull within one before a couple in the third from the Railers. Worcester netminder Evan Buitenhuis (2 GA, 19 Saves) earned consecutive wins for the second time this season.
Nic Pierog (3g) started the scoring for the Railers seven minutes into the opening frame by deflecting Mike Cornell’s right point slapper past Ustimenko. The shot was going well wide to the left of Ustimenko, but Pierog managed to redirect it in the net.
Ustimenko made a pair of tough saves to freeze the puck while Worcester was swarming.
With 2:25 remaining in the period, Pierog scored his second of the night after less impressively deflecting a left point snap shot off the stick of former Royals player Barry Almeida.
Cornell padded the Railers’ lead early in the second period to 3-0. Jack Stander couldn’t force his way towards the goal in the left circle, so he spun the puck behind his back to Cornell, who was trailing the play.
Strome put the Royals on the board midway through the second period to put the cherry on top of beautiful tick-tack-toe passing. James de Haas slid the puck towards Matthew Gaudreau in the left circle who promptly whipped the puck towards Strome in the slot.
Swavely followed up Strome’s snapper with a bullet of a wrister from the right circle to make it 3-2. He and Jeremy Beaudry swapped places down the right wing before Beaudry passed it to Swavely from the goal line for the assist.
Former Royals player Shane Walsh re-padded the Railers lead to two with seven minutes remaining in the third period. Ben Thompson slapped the puck from the deep slot, and it hit the conglomeration of Ustimenko, David Drake and Walsh. The puck was barely pushed over the line by Walsh's blade, and Pierog recorded a hat trick by scoring an empty-netter to cement the game, 5-2.
This hand is a fightin’ hand!
Trevor Gooch electrified the crowd inside Santander Arena with a dozen left-handed punches that landed on Justin Murray following Swavely’s late second period goal. The fight marked Gooch’s second career fighting major, with the first taking place against Maine on Dec. 31.
Following Frank DiChiara’s fisticuffs later in the period, 12 fights have taken place this season for the Royals. Garrett Mitchell leads the team with three, while Gooch is now second.
Where’s the Shots?Through the first 31:09 of the game, the Royals recorded five shots on Buitenhuis before Strome slotted the Royals’ first goal of the game on their sixth shot. Buitenhuis came into the game with a .893 save percentage following his 30-save 4-1 victory Jan. 3.
Reading only sent three shots on goal in the first period, tied for team’s second-worst total all season with the third period against Brampton on Dec. 29. The Royals’ lowest mark of the season came in the second period at Wheeling Nov. 8 when they threw two shots on net.
On the other end of the extreme, the most shots the Royals have had in a single period this year was 25 in the first period Nov. 3 against Adirondack. They won 1-0 with Ralph Cuddemi scoring in the second period.
The Royals will be back home for Education Day on Jan. 7 at 10:30 A.M. against the Maine Mariners. There will be $10 student tickets for participating schools that include a ticket, food and a hat, in addition to $1 funnel cake sticks.
Single-game tickets and mini-plans are on sale by visiting royalshockey.com/promotions, calling 610-898-7825 and visiting Santander Arena and The Weidenhammer Box Office at 700 Penn Street, Reading, PA.
About the RoyalsThe Royals are in their 19th ECHL season and are proudly affiliated with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Royals won the Kelly Cup in 2013, have made the playoffs 14 times, and are four-time division champions. The Berks County Convention Center Authority (BCCCA), founded in 1996, owns the Royals and oversees operations at Santander Arena and the Santander Arena Performing Arts Center.
Listen to all Royals broadcasts at Mixlr.com/ReadingRoyals or by downloading the Mixlr App from the App Store or Google Play. All Royals away games are broadcasted on BCTV (Ch. 15 Comcast, Ch. 19 Service Electric) and Mixlr.