Royals can’t break Stewart’s perfect shootout record

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Rob Kwiet's four goals on the season have all come on the power play.

Rob Kwiet’s four goals on the season have all come on the power play. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – The four-game win streak for the Reading Royals was snapped Wednesday night by the Elmira Jackals as they ran into the unbeatable Brian Stewart in the shootout and lost 4-3.

Stewart, in his second season in the ECHL, is 6-0 in the shootout and has never allowed a goal, going a perfect 24-for-24.

For the Royals, it was a tough loss to swallow after heading into the third with the lead.

“We didn’t keep the pedal down,” defenseman Ray Macias said. “It’s really hard to take that one. Next time when we get a lead going into the third, we need to keep it.”

Though the team suffered the loss, they still gained a point. Since the nine-game slump, the Royals have secured at least one point in seven of the last eight games, going 5-1-1-1.

“Right now we’re fighting for our playoff lives,” head coach Larry Courville said. “Every game we lose and don’t get a point, we could be out of the playoffs. Every game means everything. Every point you give up means a lot.”

The Royals controlled a lot of the play in the first period, but a 5-on-3 against the Royals led to the game’s first goal. On the backend of the 5-on-3, Kyle Reeds deflected a shot from Mario Larocque past goaltender Mark Owuya for a 1-0 lead 10:18 in.

A huge goal from Todd Griffith came with 6.3 seconds left in the period. Matt Schepke fed a pass after regaining his own rebound and sent it to Griffith, who tucked it home for his fourth in only six games as a Royal and they headed into intermission tied at 1.

With time dwindling down on their third power play of the night in the second period, Rob Shearer sent a long pass up the ice to Yannick Riendeau waiting at the far blue line. Riendeau stick-handled his way through one defender and around the front of the net before depositing it above Stewart for a 2-1 lead two seconds after the power play expired. It was Riendeau’s first goal since Nov. 13.

The lead didn’t last as Jack Downing tied the game back up 1:35 later off a feed from behind the net from Artem Demkov.

It took four opportunities for the Royals to finally score on the power play. A 4-on-3 resulted after roughing minors to Rob Bellamy and Larocque and a fighting major to Olivier Labelle. Passes between Yannick Tifu and Ryan Cruthers set up a blast from Rob Kwiet at the right circle that beat Stewart high. It was Kwiet’s third power-play goal in two games and gave the Royals a 3-2 lead with 1:31 left in the second.

“It’s just important that I’m shooting the puck more,” Kwiet said. “I’m getting the lucky bounces.”

The Royals headed into the third period with the 3-2 lead, but one mistake led to the tying goal from the Jackals. Owuya made two saves, one on Dustin Gazley and the other on Mike Radja, but the second rebound landed at Louie Caporusso, who snuck it by Owuya’s right pad at 11:39.

The Royals find themselves in a tough situation when Riendeau was whistled for hooking with 1:01 left in the game, but a huge play from Macias helped push the game into overtime. The Jackals were crashing around Owuya, who dove out to make a save, but the puck squirted out of his reach and it was an open net for Elmira to pounce on. Gazley was ready to score what would be the game-winner, but Macias slid across the goal line and blocked the puck from going in.

The Royals were able to kill of the remainder of Riendeau’s penalty in overtime. Both sides had a few good scoring chances, but neither could cash in and the game progressed to a shootout.

Unfortunately for the Royals, Stewart kept up his perfect performance in the shootout and denied all three shooters from Reading, while on the other side of things, Owuya allowed goals on all three attempts from Gazley, Downing and Radja.

The Royals look to rebound from the loss with their next match Friday against another divisional opponent, the Trenton Titans.

“Putting a new attitude forward and focusing on how we’ve been playing lately is what we’re trying to do,” Kwiet said. “Keep a positive attitude after tonight’s unfortunate shootout loss and bring it into Friday’s game.”

NOTES
Cruthers’ assist on Kwiet’s goal marked his 145th point as a Royal, making him the all-time career scoring leader in team history.

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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