Royals gain valuable points with shootout win over Titans

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Mikael Bedard's presence was felt all over the ice Wednesday as he tallied three points. (Candice Monhollan)

Mikael Bedard’s presence was felt all over the ice Wednesday as he tallied three points. (Candice Monhollan)

TRENTON, N.J. – Sixteen wins in the final 26 games. That was the goal set by the Reading Royals last week that they felt would get them into the Kelly Cup playoffs. In Wednesday’s special 11 a.m. game, the Royals checked off their second win toward that goal as they gained two points a 6-5 shootout victory over the Trenton Titans.

Coming into the game, the Titans won the previous four match-ups, a streak the Royals were looking to end. It wasn’t easy as the Royals once again gave up a two-goal lead twice in the game, but were able to survive and squeeze out with the valuable points.

“I think we have to change our mindset,” forward Matt Caruana said. “If we’re up 3-0 or something and we give up the one, guys start holding the sticks a little tight and getting worried. I think we just have to realize we’re still in the lead and not panic too much. That’s something we’ve got to sort out in the next few weeks.”

After strong starts and early goals, head coach Larry Courville has had to watch his team let their leads slip away over the last week. It was disappointing that the Royals allowed the Titans to erase the deficit, he said.

“We’re not playing smart when we’re up by a couple of goals and it’s almost like we think we have to score more goals to win the game,” Courville said. “Our defense are sometimes making bad decisions in the neutral zone, our forwards sometimes are not coming back hard enough to support the [defense]. Teams that work hard and keep it simple, they find ways to score. We’re trying to get that message across to the guys so they understand and we’ll watch some more video and hopefully we can correct that here in the near future because we have to.”

The Royals opened the scoring on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Yannick Tifu to Dale Mitchell to Derrick LaPoint skating down the slot and slipped it five-hole on Titans goaltender Brad Phillips to take a 1-0 lead 4:42 into the game.

Caruana added to the lead 2:33 later on the power play. Phillips made the save on Marc Cantin’s shot from the point, but the rebound fell to Caruana, who was crashing around the right side of the net and picked up the garbage goal for his fourth of the season.

The Titans cut the lead in half with a power-play goal of their own. The rebound from Ray DiLauro’s shot rocketed up the slot where Dustin Cameron buried it top shelf 42 seconds after Caruana’s tally.

Cantin caught the Titans sleeping when he sprung a pass through two defenders to Tifu, who cut in on a breakaway and beat Phillips above the blocker for his 12th as a Royal and a 3-1 lead at 13:03 of the first.

“I usually look behind going slowly and act like I don’t know what’s going on,” Tifu said. “I’ve got my head down. Usually I’ll look quick where the hole is and I’ll take a quick shot so that the goalie is not ready. It’s the way I act. Usually I’ll let the defense catch me a little bit, act like I’m getting caught and then a quick shot. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t go in.”

The Titans once again cut the lead down to one with 41.2 second remaining in the first. After a chip in, the puck took a weird bounce and Cameron picked it up shot is from a tough angle by a screened Jussi Rynnas to make it 3-2 after one period.

Once again, the two-goal lead was restored 2:04 into the second while the Royals were on the power play. Caruana sent a pass from behind the net to Olivier Labelle waiting untouched on the right side of the net for his 20th of the season.

A scramble in front of the Royals’ net 2:36 later led to the Titans to once again battle their way back. Rynnas made a couple of good saves, but couldn’t find and cover the puck and Andy Bohmbach picked up the loose puck and backhanded it top shelf to make it 4-3.

The Royals watched their lead completely disappear at 11:27. Corey Syvret took a shot from the top of the right circle and was tipped by Matt Germain for his 10th of the year and a tie game after two periods.

Defenseman Eric Baier gave the Titans their first lead of the game at 7:55 of the third with his slap shot, but the Royals would not let it end that way.

Just 2:30 later, Caruana slipped the puck over to Mikael Bedard on the right side. His rocket beat Phillips to tie the game at 5. It was Bedard’s third goal in two games.

The game remained tied at 5 through the remainder of the period and through overtime.

In the five-round shootout, all four Royals shooters scored: Tifu, Labelle, Caruana and Bedard. Rynnas stopped two of the five shooters.

The Royals hope they can correct things and figure out how to play with a lead and not crumble when the opposition scores.

“We just got to learn,” Tifu said. “We’ve got to learn how to play with the lead and it’s going to come. Hopefully it’s going to come. There’s 20 games left in the season, and hopefully we’ll learn quick enough and then we can push for the playoffs.”

Since coming over from the Wheeling Nailers in the trade for Matt Schepke, Bedard has made an instant impact with the Royals. In his four games, he has compiled seven points (3G, 4A), including a three-point performance Wednesday against the Titans.

“He’s added some offense for us,” Courville said. “A lot of times, you make a trade and the first three or four or five games, seems like guys – since it’s a new team – try to make an impact right away and he has and hopefully he can continue on. Some guys sometimes fade away and hopefully he can do it consistently for us.”

Caruana returned to the Royals Feb. 3 from the Toronto Marlies and although he only collected three points (1G, 2A) over the next five games, he has been one of the top players for the Royals.

“I think my first couple games weren’t great, but today I felt really good out there and starting to get back in the swing of things,” he said. “It is a bit of an adjustment [coming down from the AHL], but I feel like I’m starting to get back where I was.”

He proved it Wednesday as he added three points in the shootout victory.

The move back to the Royals came as a surprise, but while he is here, he said he will focus on getting points with the team.

“It’s good up there and I thought I was playing well, but with numbers and some guys coming down from the Leafs, it’s tough,” Caruana said. “When you come here, you just got to help the team out as much as you can and hopefully get the call back up.”


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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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