Royals get the bounces and take Game 1

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Kenny Ryan scored two goals in his first playoff game as a pro. (Candice Monhollan)

Kenny Ryan scored two goals in his first playoff game as a pro. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals may have snuck into the playoffs, but they showed why they belonged as they opened the Conference Quarterfinals Tuesday night with a 4-1 win over the Elmira Jackals.

The score doesn’t indicate how evenly matched the game was as neither team truly took hold and ran with it. The Royals were able to get a couple dirty goals to take the lead and goaltender Mark Owuya was able to keep the Jackals off the board after their lone goal.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” forward Kenny Ryan said. “We got some fortunate bounces. I got lucky on a couple goals there, but I’ll take it.”

For a team that struggled for the majority of the season at home, the win at the Sovereign Center was a huge boost for the Royals in the series.

“Every game is important, especially with three games in Elmira to finish the series,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to take advantage of your home ice and fortunately we were able to do that tonight.”

Head coach Larry Courville is happy with the roster he has at the moment with the additions of Owuya and the return of a player they lost at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Dale Mitchell, a guy in the American League, wanted to come back,” Courville said. “He made efforts to come back because he wasn’t playing in the American League. You want guys that want to be here. That shows some character.”

The Royals had the aspiration to make the playoffs, and now that they’re in, their focus has shifted.

“We have a new goal,” defenseman Dave Cowan said. “We’re just trying to focus on each period in each and game and try to be effective and win each shift.”

The Royals did a good job of shutting down Elmira’s lethal top line for the majority of the game, and some of that credit goes to Ethan Cox’s line with Ian O’Connor and Casey Haines.

“Cox’s line right now, to me, is invaluable,” Courville said. “They’re so valuable to our team right now defending, keeping the scoring chances tight and doing a great job against their key guys.”

From the drop of the puck, the Royals and Jackals kept it evenly matched – and some may argue, a little flat for a playoff game. Both teams were awarded opportunities with a power play each early in the first, but neither side could find the back of the net.

The Royals opened the scoring in the series at 16:48 of the first. Yannick Riendeau caught the Jackals by surprise as he waited by the blue line behind the defense. Cowan got the puck to him and he broke into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 and fired a shot on goaltender Brian Stewart. Stewart made the save, but the puck squeaked behind his skate by the left post. Riendeau skated below the goal line, scooped up the loose puck and wrapped it around the post and into the net before Stewart could find where the puck went.

The lead was short lived as the Jackals came right back. Jimmy Martin tied the game a mere 16 seconds later after the Royals lost a faceoff in the defensive end.

Ryan gave the Royals the 2-1 lead shortly into the second period. Ryan drew Stewart out of the crease and was able to drag the puck behind the net where he was able to bank it off a defenseman’s skate and in at 2:10.

On their fifth power play, the Royals were still unable to convert, but 22 seconds after the slashing minor to Mike Devin expired, Ryan cashed in on his second of the night at 7:39 of the third. He snapped a shot from the right faceoff dot to give the Royals a comfortable 3-1 lead.

The Jackals started to turn the tide after Ryan’s goal and were out-shooting the Royals 11-4 through 13 minutes of the third, but Owuya made the necessary saves the keep the Jackals from closing in on the lead.

Ryan passed up his chance to net a hat trick with Stewart pulled for an extra attacker by dishing the puck over to an open Yannick Tifu to seal the win with 1:14 left.

The Royals took the crucial first game and look to keep the momentum going Wednesday night with another win at home to put a stranglehold on the first place Jackals.

“A lot of people counted us out,” Ryan said. “Fifteen games left in the season and we needed to almost win every one and we were able to do that, for the most part. I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure in the locker room. The guys are just excited to play in the playoffs and see what we can do.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Kelly Cup Playoffs, Sports

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