Downward spiral continues for the Royals

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Captain Ryan Cruthers believes the Royals will turn the season around. (Candice Monhollan)

Captain Ryan Cruthers believes the Royals will turn the season around. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – It’s become painful to see the words: seven consecutive losses. The Reading Royals that had so much promise at the beginning of the season continue to stumble.

The Royals drew the short end of the stick having to face the division-leading Wheeling Nailers in the midst of a slump and it didn’t end Friday night. The Nailers steamrolled through the Royals to secure a 5-1 win.

“Believe me when I say I’ve tried to make changes,” head coach Larry Courville said. “I made one change last week. We’re trying to make changes within our locker room, we’re trying to make changes outside of our locker room, but sometimes it takes time [and] sometimes it never happens.”

Players know that during a slump like this, changes among the roster are a definite possibility.

“I’m thinking I could be gone tomorrow,” captain Ryan Cruthers said. “I’m not having a great year. I’m a minus-13, I don’t have nearly the amount of points I should, and maybe I’m the next to go. I’m nervous about my job.”

Cruthers feels that none of the players on the team, except goaltender Joe Palmer, are playing well.

“Guys have bad seasons, but collectively we’re having a bad season,” he said. “That’s just unacceptable.”

The Nailers held the majority of the play early, but the Royals had some good chances early, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

A mad scramble in front of Palmer led to another goal reminiscent of their previous game. Bodies crowded the crease and Palmer was on his stomach trying to find and cover the puck, but rookie Chris Barton – who was named ECHL Rookie of the month for November earlier in the day – found the loose puck and flipped over Palmer at 9:44 of the first.

Just a mere 24 seconds later, Patrick Johnson added to the lead with a shot from along the boards that squeaked between Palmer’s skate and the post.

The second period escalated quickly for the Royals.

A carryover power play from the end of the first gave the Nailers the chance to tack on more. Barton tallied his second of the night and 14th of the season 44 seconds into the second to make it 3-0. After giving up three goals on 14 shots, Palmer’s night was finished and Karel St-Laurent came on in relief.

The Royals had their chance to break the shutout two minutes later, but Olivier Labelle couldn’t corral the puck sliding along the boards and Adam Ross picked it up and skated in short-handed and fired the puck past St-Laurent for a 4-0 Nailers lead at 4:25. It was the first shot St. Laurent faced in the game.

The Nailers still were not finished. At 13:58 of the second, Denver Manderson‘s shot rang off the post and ended up at the top of the crease. St-Laurent could not find the puck in time before Christiaan Minella put it home.

With 3:31 left in the period, things began to boil over in the game. As Wheeling’s Andrew Hotham chased the puck behind his net, he was double-teamed by Dennis McCauley and Cruthers. The hit from Cruthers sent Hotham head-first into the boards. A melee ensued with multiple players from both sides getting involved. Once things were sorted out, three Nailers players were assessed roughing minors and McCauley was given a roughing minor and game misconduct and Cruthers was slapped with a roughing minor, boarding major and two game misconducts.

Dale Mitchell broke the shutout after ripping one above Wheeling’s Patrick Killeen off a pass from Labelle 1:56 into the third for his second of the season. It was all the offense they could muster.

The Royals have fallen to 2-7-0-1 at home ice and 7-10-2-2 overall.

“Things will happen here and I hope I’m a part of it,” Cruthers said. “But we will win around here. Larry’s not going to accept losing. He’s already made one big move and he’ll make other big moves. We’ll make the playoffs, I guarantee that.”

Cruthers and McCauley may face suspensions on Saturday for the incident in the second period.


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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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