Royals squander lead and lose big to Everblades

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Yannick Tifu scored two goals Wednesday night, but it wasn't enough for the Royals. (Mike Ashmore)

Yannick Tifu scored two goals Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough for the Royals. (Mike Ashmore)

READING, Pa. – A big two points were on the line Wednesday night for the Reading Royals and their opponent, the Florida Everblades. The game had a playoff-like intensity, until it dropped off considerably from the Royals and an Everblades onslaught ensued, snatching the two points away from Reading with a 8-3 win.

The Royals squandered a big chance to gain in points on the Cincinnati Cyclones, who are in the final playoff spot, with the loss and allow the Chicago Express to move ahead of them by one point for ninth.

The first period was full of scoring chances, hard hits, fisticuffs and energy from both sides, but as the physicality went for the Royals, so did everything else, including scoring. The Everblades took over with a four-goal second period and never looked back.

“We’re in a playoff spot, they’re in a playoff spot, and nobody wants to give that little inch,” captain Yannick Tifu said. “I’m not looking for an excuse tonight. I think they wanted it more than us. We played only 15 minutes in that game and we kind of gave up a little bit.”

Giving up looked to be the only answer to explain the loss.

“The second and third periods were terrible,” head coach Larry Courville said. “We came out with lots of energy, lots of intensity, but we couldn’t sustain it for 60 minutes. I felt like we had some give up in us and that’s kind of disappointing.”

The Royals started off strong, with two back-to-back shifts that spent over a minute in Florida’s end, but soon, the ice leveled out and the Everblades began getting their chances.

Goaltender Mark Owuya mishandled the puck behind the net, which led to a good chance for the Everblades. Owuya made the save and Chris Doyle and Tifu led a rush up the ice. Tifu dangled around an Everblade defender and ripped one past goaltender John Muse for a 1-0 lead 8:39 into the first.

Tifu was at it again 1:13 later on a partial breakaway. He was able to push through a lone Everblade, who was trying to haul him down, and deked out Muse for a 2-0 Royals lead.

The Royals seemingly stepped off the gas pedal after Tifu’s second goal and the Everblades began pressuring. They broke through at 12:09 after repeated saves in close by Owuya, but the third rebound fell to Matt Beca and he backhanded it to pull Florida to within one.

Whatever fire the Royals started with was no longer apparent in the second period as the Everblades came out and dominated.

Matt Marquardt missed on a prime opportunity early in the second, but couldn’t corral the puck in time and Owuya got his glove on it, but he made up for it at 4:56. He skated past the blue line and fired a slapper from just below the point that beat Owuya clean above the glove to tie the game at 2.

Former Royal Brayden Irwin got revenge on his old team 2:26 later with his goal on the power play to give the Everblades their first lead of the game.

Things continued to unravel as the Everblades scored their third unanswered goal 47 seconds after Irwin’s tally. Scott Pitt waited all alone by the Royals’ blue line and skated in untouched and fired one by Owuya’s glove to make it 4-2.

The Royals got themselves back in the game with 3:47 left in the period. Mikael Bedard skated from the right faceoff dot towards the slot, but was tripped up. As he was falling to the ice, he swiped a pass over to Matt Caruana, who finished it to bring the Royals to within one.

A mass of bodies and several chances with time winding down led to an Everblades penalty with 17 seconds left, but unfortunately, thing took a wrong turn. A turnover at the blue line allowed Mathieu Roy to skate in on a breakaway and score a short-handed goal with 2.4 seconds remaining to make it 5-3.

It continued to fall apart in the third period as the Everblades kept finding the back of the net. After icing was waived off late, Trevor Bruess flipped a backhander top shelf on Owuya, extending the Everblades’ lead to 6-3 at 4:08.

Mike Ratchuk put the game plenty out of reach 32 seconds later when he one-handed his own rebound past Owuya’s right pad. Owuya was pulled after allowing seven goals on 26 shots in favor of Karel St-Laurent, who was seeing action for the first time since Feb. 24.

The change in goaltending still couldn’t stop the onslaught from the Everblades. They notched their eighth goal of the night, this time from Bobby Raymond at 10:41 of the third.

With nine games left and the Everblades now six points ahead, it looks like the battle for the Royals is down to just the Cyclones for the final spot.

“We’ve got to stop looking at the other teams,” Tifu said. “We’ve got to do our job. It’s good to win two in a row, but we have to make it a series, go four or five in a row. We’ve got to find a way to put teams away and that’s a little bit of a problem we have.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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