Royals control playoff destiny with win over Titans

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Matt Caruana notched his first career hat trick Sunday night. (Mike Ashmore)

Matt Caruana notched his first career hat trick Sunday night. (Mike Ashmore)

READING, Pa. – A three-in-three weekend with three W’s.

The Reading Royals knew what they had to do and went out and achieved it as they swept the Trenton Titans in all three games over the weekend, ending it with a 5-3 victory Sunday night.

“I think we have our hands on our own destiny right now,” forward Matt Caruana said. “I feel like we put ourselves in a good position now.”

The win, combined with Cincinnati’s loss and Chicago’s win, puts them all in a three-way tie for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs at 75 points with three games left.

“We feel the urgency,” Caruana said. “We can’t afford a loss. Everyone’s winning around us, so we’ve got to keep winning and I think we put ourselves back in a good spot right now. We worked our way out of a hole to get back to even with everybody, so we can’t stop now. We still have a long way to go.”

With the three wins, the confidence is apparent from the Royals.

“There’s lots of confidence,” defenseman Ray Macias said. “It’s a very high level right now. We won three out of three this weekend and the last three games are going to be huge. Hopefully we can keep going.”

The Royals hold the tiebreaker over Cincinnati because of the head-to-head points where Reading has three to Cincinnati’s two, giving them the eighth spot and the opportunity to punch a ticket to the playoffs if they win the final three games, and may even have the chance to move up to possibly the seventh or sixth spot.

“We’re watching everybody right now, even Wheeling,” head coach Larry Courville said. “There’s still a chance, hopefully, that if we win out and they lose and we beat them here come Wednesday, that we have a chance to catch either South Carolina or Wheeling. We just want to win out. We just want to come together like we have in the last little while here and get some wins.”

The Royals may not have started the scoring early like the night before, but they did keep the jump in their legs as they were out-shooting the Titans 5-1 within the first three and a half minutes of the game.

The pressure paid off 6:28 in. Casey Haines, along the wall, passed the puck toward the slot where Yannick Tifu came charging down. He re-directed it in for his 21st of the season for the 1-0 lead.

Caruana needed just 27 seconds into the second period to extend the Royals lead to 2-0 when he scored off his own rebound during 4-on-4 hockey with Steve Silva and Olivier Labelle both in the box for roughing.

The Titans ended goaltender Mark Owuya’s shutout streak at 96:05 when Dustin Cameron drew him out to the top of the crease, skated around his outstretched leg and deposited the puck into the empty net at 3:03 to pull the Titans to within one.

Yannick Reindeau tallied his third goal in two games when he unleashed a slap shot from the high slot to restore the Royals’ two-goal lead at 6:44 of the second.

Caruana extended the lead to 4-1 with his shot from below the faceoff dot in the left circle at 10:34 for his second of the night.

This time around, the Titans weren’t going to go quietly. Randy Rowe made it 4-2 with his goal that went top shelf on Owuya 4:53 into the third.

Things got hairy for the Royals at 8:45 when the Titans drew to within one off Cameron’s second of the night.

The Royals weren’t going to let the game slip away as Caruana recorded his first career hat trick 2:14 after Cameron’s goal.

“The worst three-goal performance ever, I think,” said Caruana, who had plenty of chances to tally two or three more. “I couldn’t believe it. Definitely could have had a few more. Sometimes you go five, six, ten games and it feels like you can’t buy one and then one night, the puck’s just going wherever you want. You’re getting the bounces. Felt like I couldn’t do anything wrong, really.”

With the big weekend, the playoffs are the closest they’ve been for the Royals and the players are well aware.

“We can see it, but we still have to play the game,” Macias said. “We still have to play hard every shift, in and out. Hopefully we can do it and I think we will do it. We just have to worry about our wins and not other teams. We just have to win the last three and we should be good.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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