Three-goal third gives Royals comeback win

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Yannick Tifu becomes the new captain of the Reading Royals after Ryan Cruthers was traded. (Candice Monhollan)

Yannick Tifu becomes the new captain of the Reading Royals after Ryan Cruthers was traded. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – Out with the old and in with the new. And so it went as the Reading Royals headed into Friday night’s match against the Toledo Walleye when they said goodbye to four players and welcomed in five new ones, three of who were in the lineup. Though it is too soon to tell, the move paid instant dividends as the Royals made a thrilling comeback to win 5-4 in the shootout.

New blood was brought in after two trades were completed before the deadline Thursday afternoon. Gone were Rob Kwiet to the Stockton Thunder and captain Ryan Cruthers to the Alaska Aces. Dennis McCauley was released prior to the game. In return, the Royals received Ethan Cox, Chris Doyle, Ian O’Connor and Colten Hayes and they signed William Lacasse.

Fifteen minutes before the game, the Royals released that Yannick Tifu was named the new captain of the Royals, dawning a new era on the team that has begun to build for next season, though still clinging to the hope of making the playoffs this year.

“It’s a big honor,” Tifu said. “At the same time, I felt bad. Cruthers was a good guy, a good friend. The rumor was going around a little bit in the room this morning and yesterday and I didn’t know if I wanted it. To be honest, they never really asked me. They put it on my jersey when I showed up. I’m happy. I want to lead and be a guy that’s going to lead to success. At the same time, you’re always kind of shaky. Cruthers did a lot for the organization and he was a great captain.”

It was a rough start to the game as it seemed hopeless to win after the first two periods, but the team battled back and were able to pull of the comeback.

“The first period with the new guys, you try to stay as calm as possible,” head coach Larry Courville said. “It showed a lot of character of the guys, especially being down 4-1, to come back. You’ve got to give credit to Kyle Neuber also. He’s not known for a guy who scores goals and he’s a role player that is known to fight, but he’s been working hard, competing and gets rewarded. He did a great job for us tonight.”

It’s hard to point fingers at one thing as the reason for the struggles to start the game, but with all the new players, it seemed as though there was no communication and a lack of chemistry.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys in the room,” Tifu said. “Tonight, maybe we can blame the first two periods of having new guys in the lineup, but we came through as a team. It’s a huge two points.”

The Royals started the game looking like a team who had never skated together before – understandable after all the moves made. There was no sense of cohesiveness as passes were picked off and several turnovers led to odd-man rushes for the Walleye.

The Walleye took the lead 5:55 into the first off a Royals turnover. Kyle Rogers blasted one from the top of the right circle that beat goaltender Mark Owuya five-hole.

Toledo extended it to 2-0 with 4:32 left in the first off another turnover. The puck bounced in the air in front of Derek Brochu and he swatted it past Owuya’s blocker.

The Royals were able to get on the board 24 seconds later with a blast from Neuber over Alec Richards’ glove to make it a 2-1 game.

The Royals began to gel more in the second, but it still wasn’t enough as the Walleye made it 3-1 with 1:04 left. Brochu scored his second of the night off a backhanded redirect over Owuya’s shoulder off a feed from David Toews.

The Walleye made the game seem out of reach 2:58 into the third when former Royal Todd Griffith scored on the power play to extend the lead to 4-1.

Once again, Neuber stepped up to keep the Royals alive as he scored 38 seconds later off the rebound. Doyle had the initial shot and received his first point as a Royal in his first game.

Things got interesting 13:37 in when the Royals drew themselves to within one. Tifu passed from the right side over to Kenny Ryan. He waited out until Richards was on his side on the ice and put it in.

Courville called his timeout with about a minute to go in regulation with the Royals down 4-3. He pulled Owuya for the extra attacker and with 53.5 seconds left, Ryan found the loose puck in the crease through a mass of bodies and pushed it in to tie the game.

“Somebody put the puck on net and I was just able to get in front of the net,” Ryan said. “Next thing I know, it was lying right in the crease and I was able to put it in. I’m just happy they counted it as a goal.”

Neither the Royals nor Walleye could find the back of the net in overtime, even with a power play to Toledo.

Owuya was stellar in the shootout, stopping all five shooters he faced. Matt Caruana scored the lone goal in the shootout and completed the comeback for the Royals.

The win moves the Royals into ninth place as they still find themselves in the playoff bubble.

“I’d rather be in the mix right now,” Tifu said. “That’s what hockey players are born for, a challenge like that. We’re two points behind Florida. We want to make it. It’s getting sunny outside in Reading, it’s getting beautiful. We want to make it.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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