Royals win at home in OT with thrilling last-second goal

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
The Royals improved their record to 4-2-1-2 against the Elmira Jackals this season. (Candice Monhollan)

The Royals improved their record to 4-2-1-2 against the Elmira Jackals this season. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals looked to continue their momentum from a successful six-game road trip where they secured eight out of a possible 12 points, but their home record was not as reassuring as they had only won five games at home all season.

Friday night’s game against the Elmira Jackals turned into a thriller for the home fans as the Royals were able to get the win in overtime with a buzzer-beater from Yannick Tifu. It was their second overtime win in a row with both game winners coming from Tifu.

“For the crowd, I think it’s great,” Tifu said. “For us, we didn’t give them the hockey they want. I think they’ve been disappointed. They can only see us on the B2 network win some games, and then when we come back home we can’t find a way to win a game. So I think it’s great for the fans and it’s great for us.”

Though the Royals could not string together a full 60-minute effort and failed to convert on two big power plays earlier in the game, they were still able to get the much needed two points.

“[We] finally scored on the power play,” head coach Larry Courville said. “We weren’t successful, but in the end, it got us the two points and I was happy with that.”

It was a big win for the Royals, not just because it was at home, but because it was against a divisional opponent they are trying to catch in the standings. The playoff watch is on as the Royals try to climb above eighth place in the conference in the remaining 25 games of the season.

“It’s a huge lift,” defenseman Denny Urban said. “We play Elmira seven more times. We’re trying to catch them for a playoff spot and picking up two points – we gave them one – but two points is a step in the right direction.”

The Royals got off to a shaky start in the first period after a quick tally from the opposition.

Skating hard around the back of Elmira’s net, Dale Mitchell took out goaltender Brian Stewart a mere 48 seconds into the game, giving the league’s third best power play an early opportunity. It took just 13 seconds in the man-advantage for the Jackals to take the 1-0 lead as Jimmy Martin’s shot deflected above Jussi Rynnas’ arm and into the net.

The Royals were able to settle down as the period went on, but failed to convert on a 5-on-3 chance to tie the game and went into the first intermission trailing by one.

The second period was a different story as the Royals came out ready to play. Matt Caruana tallied his third goal of the season 35 seconds in on a deflection from Dave Cowan’s shot from the point that beat Stewart five-hole to tie the game.

Thirty-eight seconds later, Zach McKelvie gave the Royals a 2-1 lead with his shot from the left circle for his first as a Royal and his second as a pro.

As what has become a theme this season, the Royals were unable to hold onto the lead. Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel sprung Dustin Gazley on a breakaway late in the period. He skated through two Royals defenders and was able to get off a shot with Ryan Button on him that beat Rynnas top shelf at 15:39.

Another prime opportunity slipped through the Royals’ grasp as they failed to capitalize once again on the power play, this time after a double minor assessed to Craig Rivet.

A scoreless third period led to overtime between the two teams.

A huge save from Rynnas sent Kenny Ryan flying down the ice and he drew a holding call on Matt Campanale at 3:52 to give the Royals their fifth power play opportunity.

The Royals had several close chances but when it looked as though the time was about to expire, Urban threw the puck at the net. Stewart made the stop, but the rebound dropped in front of Tifu who was crashing around the crease. He picked up the loose puck for an easy tap in right as the buzzer sounded for a thrilling end to the game.

“When you’re out there and you hear there’s only five seconds left, you just want to get the puck to the net,” Urban said. “You never know what could happen. You just want to get as many pucks to the net as you can.”

The Royals celebrated like they haven’t done before at home as they piled on top of each other before heading down the tunnel to the locker room.

“I knew I had time when [Urban] shot,” Tifu said. “I knew it was 2.8. I looked quick at the board and after that, it’s just what happened…I was going to celebrate no matter what. I had to put a doubt in [Stewart’s] mind. I think the bench reacted good, too. In those situations, you have to make sure to put a doubt in his head. In my mind, I was doubting a little bit, but I was not at the same time.”

The Jackals, however, refused to leave the ice as they continued to question if the goal actually beat the clock. It took two misconduct penalties handed out for the Jackals to finally leave.

“Before the morning skate this morning, we said we had 21 games against our division [left],” Tifu said. “Elmira had eight, then Wheeling we have five games and then Trenton we have eight. So in those ones, we have to figure out how to win, and a lot of those are at home, too.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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