Express come back in third, defeat the Royals

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Joe Palmer has allowed three goals or less in his last four games. (Alyssa Benson)

Joe Palmer has allowed three goals or less in his last four games. (Alyssa Benson)

READING, Pa. – It was a heart breaker Wednesday night in the first ever match-up between the Reading Royals and Chicago Express. The Royals held a 2-1 lead, but two goals in the third period gave the Express the 3-2 win. Reading has now fallen to one game below .500 (7-8-1-1) and a low 2-5-0-0 on home ice.

“[The Express] are a hard-working team,” head coach Larry Courville said. “They’re a strong team – they come at you hard, the defense is coming down the wall hard. They outworked us. They outplayed us.”

Even in the loss, Royals goaltender Joe Palmer once again stepped up his play and made 44 saves. He’s allowed five goals in his last four games played and has made 138 saves on 145 shots over that time for a 1.42 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. Palmer is sixth in the league in saves made this season (332).

The players in front of him, however, have not been putting up the goals needed. The Royals have only scored 31 even-strength goals in their 17 games – which equals out to 1.82 per game. Not good for a team that has as many skilled players as the Royals have.

“They’re just not going in for us right now,” forward Chad Painchaud said. “It’s just a matter of time before everything starts clicking and the pucks will go in the net, but I think right now we’re really worried about our defensive zone coverage. We’ve played better defensively. We’re going to get more offensive opportunities, so that’s got to be the focus right now.”

The Royals power play, which has been hot as of late, was instantly cooled in the first period. Denny Urban, back out after being rocked hard into the boards, fumbled with the puck at the blue line and tripped. Chicago’s Chaz Johnson jumped on the puck and skated in on the breakaway and scored five-hole on Palmer halfway through the first period.

The Express out-shot the Royals 25-9 over the first 35 minutes and held the majority of the play, but Palmer was able to keep up his outstanding play of late and keep the Royals in the game.

Marvin Degon was able to get the Royals on the board with 4:04 left in the period. Painchaud fed a pass to the slot where Degon was skating hard towards the net. It was an easy shot in the open net for the defenseman’s third of the season to tie the game at 1.

The Royals’ power play was able to strike in the second period. Urban’s shot from the blue line was redirected on its way in by Matt Schepke – who was originally to be a healthy scratch for the game. With the goal, the Royals have extended their streak to 10 consecutive games with a power-play goal.

Despite a 28-13 disadvantage in shots, the Royals held the 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

A plague for the team over the last week has been closing out games. Even worse is the shots given up in the third period. Wednesday night was no exception as the Express fired 19 shots at Palmer while the Royals only mustered six.

Two defensive breakdowns led directly to two goals by the Express. At 9:57 of the third, the Royals failed to clear the puck out of their end. Johnson’s shot was stopped by Palmer, but Blair Riley, all alone in front, put the rebound in to tie the game. And late in the game with 2:21 left, Chicago’s Bobby Robins beat Dave Cowan and skated in one-on-one with Palmer and beat him cleanly.

“I think we’re definitely a better team than what our record shows,” Painchaid said. “I think everyone knows that. We’re not playing well in our own end. We’ve got to work harder and win our one-on-one battles and just go from there and hopefully we can turn things around.”

The Royals’ penalty kill has moved out from the bottom of the league and now sits sixteenth at 76.8-percent. They’ve allowed one goal over the last 26 power-play opportunities.

Urban’s assist on Schepke’s power-play goal was his eighth point on the man-advantage this season.

Dennis McCauley was a late scratch before the game due to a virus.

Dale Mitchell left the game after the first period with an injury.

Yannick Riendeau sat out his second game after being hit behind in the legs in the game against the Cincinnati Cyclones.


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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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