Royals slump hits six games

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Louis Liotti scored his first goal since Feb. 27, 2010 when he was with the Kalamazoo Wings. (Candice Monhollan)

Louis Liotti scored his first goal since Feb. 27, 2010 when he was with the Kalamazoo Wings. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – Another game, another blown third period lead. That’s how it went for the Reading Royals Wednesday night as they faced the Elmira Jackals for the fifth time this season. Regardless of an early 2-0 lead, the Royals let the momentum shift and lost in a shootout, 3-2.It’s the fourth straight game where the Royals could only get two goals.

“If we win a game 1-0, scoring’s not a problem,” forward Dennis McCauley said. “It’s not so much the lack of scoring – it’s a lack of wins. It’s not bouncing for us the way we want it to, especially late in the game.”

The team has now suffered their sixth consecutive loss (0-3-1-2) and has allowed a league-worst 71 goals against this season. Their goal differential at home is minus-10 (20-30) and a minus-6 in the third period (5-11).

“It’s a little bit of everything,” head coach Larry Courville said. “It’s a little bit about playing smart, playing better defensively, [and] playing with more confidence. Those are the issues.”

Yannick Tifu‘s first game as a Royal seemed to have given early life to the team that has been suffering as of late.

An early penalty to Denny Urban 33 seconds into the opening stanza could have derailed the Royals, but instead, the penalty kill remained strong and 23 seconds after the kill, Louis Liotti‘s shot from the point found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead 2:56 into the game.

Matt Schepke passed up to McCauley – who returned after missing three games from illness – from the neutral zone and his snap shot from the left circle beat Brian Stewart for a 2-0 Royals lead 3:04 left in the first period.

“It feels good – especially after being sidelines for the past week – to get back in it and get a goal and get a fight and help the team as much as I can,” McCauley said. “You can only do so much. Everyone’s got to pull the rope and I just wanted to show them I was ready to go and anxious to get back on the ice.”

As great as the Tifu bump worked in advantage for the Royals in the first, it quickly wore off in the second period. Reading didn’t come out with as much jump and the Jackals took advantage. Matt Campanale banked the puck through Joe Palmer‘s five-hole off a feed from Jack Downing behind the net for his second of the season. The goal, which came at 3:29, was the lone goal in the second.

Coming into the game, the Royals had blown third period leads in three of the previous five games. Wednesday night was no different. It took only 23 seconds for the Royals faithful to watch their team once again give up a goal in the third.

Kevin Harvey skated the puck into the Royals end and his shot created a scramble in front of the net which eventually saw at least four different shots from multiple Jackals. With Palmer sprawled on the ice and bodies littering the front of the net, Harvey was able to get another chance, and this time he scored his first of the season.

“It’s a 1-on-2 against a defenseman and he’s able to get two shots untouched and then make a pass to a third guy, which one of our forwards has to make the save, and the fourth guy comes in and scores,” Courville said. “It’s just unacceptable.”

The Royals had chances to retake the lead with two minor penalties called back-to-back against the Jackals in the finals seven minutes of the third, but the power play faltered and barely generated any shots.

“It didn’t seem like we had a sense of urgency,” Courville said. “That was our time of the game where we need to bear down and make that play and get the puck at the net.”

For the second consecutive game, the Royals went to overtime knotted at 2. The Royals couldn’t muster any shots in the extra period, and had to play a man short after Dale Mitchell was whistled for tripping with 1:06 left.

Despite an onslaught of chances from the Jackals, Palmer and the Royals held on in the final minute and the game went to a shootout. Palmer may have survived the Jackals’ power play, but he faltered in the shootout. Four Jackals skated in, one hit the post and the other three scored. On the other side of the ice, no Royal could get one past Stewart.

The Royals have slipped to third place in the Atlantic Division and have not been able to score more than two goals in a game since the Nov. 19 loss to the Toledo Walleye.

“Every team slumps,” McCauley said. “It happens with every team at every level. Right now we’re having problems scoring goals. You don’t want to grip your stick too tight, you don’t want to over think it, you just want to make the easy things because the way to get out of a slump is to work together.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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