Tifu and Cruthers spark comeback, but Royals fall just short

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Ryan Cruthers' three points helped the Royals fight back before falling just short of a win. (Mike Ashmore)

Ryan Cruthers’ three points helped the Royals fight back before falling just short of a win. (Mike Ashmore)

READING, Pa. – A bad start combined with a major penalty late in the game was enough to cost the Reading Royals Friday night against the Trenton Titans as they fell 4-3. An amazing comeback fell short after a major penalty left the Royals in a hole once again that they couldn’t climb out of.

The poor first period could be blamed on a number of reasons: a top defenseman called up, a top scorer suspended, two new defensemen, plus a goaltender that hasn’t played since Dec. 18.

“They’re all excuses,” captain Ryan Cruthers said. “We have to win. We didn’t come ready to play. We didn’t play for 20 minutes and it cost us the game.”

Head coach Larry Courville echoed his sentiments.

“We didn’t move our feet,” he said.” We didn’t win battles. We weren’t hitting anybody. I kind of gave it to the guys after the first and we responded in the second period. You play a bad first period, you deserve to lose the game.”

It wasn’t the start the Royals were looking for against a team that has been struggling as of late. The team came out with little effort in the opening period. The passing was off, little defense was played, and Joe Palmer showed the rust of not playing in two weeks.

Adam Presizniuk’s laser opened the scoring 2:07 into the first and the Titans kept piling it on.

Mitch Versteeg made it 2-0 at 5:26. His shot from the blue line bounced on its way towards Palmer, who couldn’t make the save.

Less than five minutes later, the Titans extended the lead to 3-0. Peter Lenes was left untouched in front of the net and had an easy goal off a feed from Chase Langeraap.

The Titans had three goals on eight shots in the first 10:08 of the game. Not exactly comforting for the home crowd.

The game looked out of reach until Yannick Tifu and Cruthers decided to take things into their own hands in the second period.

Half of the period went by without many quality chances for the Royals until a hooking penalty to Dennis McCauley changed things. Tifu and Cruthers had two good scoring chances short-handed, but were denied by goaltender Dave Caruso. But the very next shift they took, they came streaking down the ice again. This time, Tifu slid a pass across the crease to Cruthers waiting at the far post for an easy tap in at the 10:25 mark.

Just 1:14 later, Rob Shearer was whistled for high-sticking, and the penalty killing duo of Cruthers and Tifu were at it again. Cruthers sprung Tifu on a short-handed breakaway. He pulled the puck to his forehand and deposited top shelf to pull the Royals within one.

In the 30 games prior, the Royals had only scored three short-handed goals. In Friday’s contest, they scored two short-handed goals just 1:43 apart.

The Royals headed into the third behind by only one goal.

Momentum had clearly shifted when 1:14 into the final period, Cruthers scored his second of the night to knot the game at 3.

Things took a turn for the worst with 8:52 left in the game. Denny Urban was given a major for boarding after a push to Trenton’s Steve Silva. This time around, the Titans were able to capitalize. Denny Kearney was credited with the goal that deflected off a skate in front to give the Titans a 4-3 lead at 13:59.

The Titans  held on despite some close chances from the Royals with time winding down, including a shot off the crossbar from Matt Schepke with the extra attacker.

Though the end result was a regulation loss, if the team had fallen behind 3-0 a mere month ago, it would have turned into a rout of the Royals. But lately, the team has been fighting for every point they can, and proved so tonight by tying the game in the third.

“We’re coming together as a team,” Cruthers said. “I think guys are starting to accept where their place is on this team and guys are just starting to play better overall. Our goal is to not lose two in a row for the rest of the year. We just did that, so we’ll start over again tomorrow and start that trend again.”

NOTES
Cruthers and Tifu both had a hand in all three goals by the Royals. Both finished with three points: Cruthers – 2G, 1A; Tifu – 1G, 2A.

CRUTHERS ADDING TO HIS RESUME
In Wednesday’s game, Cruthers assist made his the all-time leading scorer in Royals history, but he wasn’t done there.

Friday’s game saw Cruthers tally three points, including his 50th and 51st goals as a Royal. His assist on Tifu’s goal marked his 97th, making him the all-time leader in club history.

“Ryan’s been a leader in our locker room and has been here,” Courville said. “He’s been a loyal player to our organization. It’s a nice reward for him to finally be a leading scorer. It’s a great accomplishment for him.”

For Cruthers, the milestones and records show his commitment to the team he has been a part of for three years.

“It shows a commitment to playing for Reading and how I like playing for Reading,” Cruthers said. “I’ve had good linemates here. I think we help each other get to this point. It’s a nice accomplishment and I’m happy about it, but my goal here has always been to win a championship. My job is to put up points, so obviously that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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