Royals let two-goal lead slip, drop game

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Kenny Ryan scored his fifth goal as a Royal Saturday night. (Candice Monhollan)

Kenny Ryan scored his fifth goal as a Royal Saturday night. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – Since the four-game win streak from Dec. 16 through 23,  the Reading Royals have been unable to string together more than two wins, even after a thrilling overtime win the night before. The Royals let slip a 2-0 lead in the second and allowed the Elmira Jackals to climb back and win 3-2.

“We beat ourselves tonight,” head coach Larry Courville said. “Those three goals in the second period, we had puck possession and gave it right to them…We had the game in our control in the first period. We capitalized early on our second goal, and then the second period, we started turning over the puck in non-pressure situations when we had complete control and you can’t cough up the puck when that happens.”

Captain Ryan Cruthers had a more to-the-point answer.

“Mistakes happen and they capitalized on them,” he said.

The mistakes made cost the Royals the chance to get within one point of a playoff spot and now have to continue sitting on the outer bubble in hopes of finding a way to the other side.

It was a dominating first period for the Royals as they caused havoc in the Jackals’ end, creating turnovers and beating the opposition to lose pucks along the boards.

The winning power-play goal the night before unfortunately did not spark the Royals’ to start clicking on the man-advantage as they were unable to convert on their first opportunity. Yannick Tifu prevented a short-handed breakaway as the power play ticked down and was whistled for hooking, but it was what the Royals needed as Kenny Ryan scored 4-on-4 from the left circle to give the home team a 1-0 lead 6:21 into the first.

However, the Jackals began to press late in the period as the passed the Royals in shots and created quality scoring chances, but were unable to get any by goaltender Jussi Rynnas.

The Jackals stepped up their game in the second period as the Royals began to play sloppy with the puck, though it would be the home team who struck first again.

Tifu scored his third goal in three games with his wrister from left that gave the Royals a 2-0 lead just 2:30 into the period.

The Jackals got one right back, though, as 1:06 later, former Royal Chase Watson, from the bottom of the right circle, deposited a rebound top shelf on Rynnas to draw within one.

The goals kept coming from Jackals as a defender knocked Rynnas’ stick out of his hands. Derrick LaPoint handed his stick over, but it wasn’t enough as Jordan Pietrus tied that game at 12:20.

Dustin Gazley, who is the rookie scoring leader in the ECHL, was itching for a goal all game long and his shot snuck past Rynnas, who laid back to try and freeze the puck, but fellow rookie Artem Demkov poked the puck through the goaltender and into the net with 2:44 left in the second and gave the Jackals their first lead of the game. The tally also snapped a 23-game goal drought for Demkov.

The Jackals took control over in the third. They out-shot the Royals 8-0 through the first eight minutes of the period, including several on a power play early on.

The Royals finally found some momentum in the final three minutes of the game with several close chances, including a wrap-around attempt from Dale Mitchell that was stopped right on the goal line, but were unable to beat Brian Stewart.

It’s been a seesaw season as the Royals have consistently floated around the .500 mark the majority of the year. With the loss, they find themselves four points out of eighth place for the final playoff spot with 24 games remaining in the season.

“We just got to keep winning games – find ways to win games,” Cruthers said. “When you win a game, figure out what made you successful and stick to that. They’re all division games, for the most part, for the rest of the year. We’ve just got to find ways to keep winning and keep rolling and string a couple together and next thing you know, you find yourself moving up the standings.”

The team has a goal set that they feel will help them achieve a spot in the postseason.

“We had a meeting in [the locker room] a couple days ago when we only had 26 games and we felt we had to win at least 16 to make the playoffs, and maybe 17,” Courville said. “We know what our situation is and we can’t look for other teams to help us out. We have to respond and control our own destiny.”

Rynnas received his fifth consecutive start in net and seventh in the last nine games. He has given up 26 goals in those seven games for a 4.00 GAA and .893 SP and has been pulled once.

The Royals went 0-for-3 on the power play in the game and sit 11th in the league at 16.7 percent.


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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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