Royals continue to win, hold 2-0 series lead

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Casey Haines is part of the valuable line that has helped the Royals go up 2-0 in the series. (Candice Monhollan)

Casey Haines is part of the valuable line that has helped the Royals go up 2-0 in the series. (Candice Monhollan)

READING, Pa. – Someone forgot to tell the Reading Royals they are the last seed in the Eastern Conference.

They now have a 2-0 stranglehold over the No. 1 Elmira Jackals after a 4-2 victory Wednesday night in their last game at home in the series.

The power play, which struggled mightily the night before, found the mojo it needed and had a huge impact on the game.

“We watched the video and had a meeting with our power-play group and showed them the mistakes they were making,” head coach Larry Courville said. “We redeemed ourselves with getting pucks in and retrieving pucks. We knew we could have some success as long as we could get entry. Our power play won us the game.”

The line of Ethan Cox, Casey Haines and Ian O’Connor was once again matched up against the top line of Dustin Gazley, Mike Radja and Artem Demkov, and once again did a great job of shutting them down.

“They are, through and through, tremendously skilled,” Cox said. “They all bring some different dynamic to the table. You’ve got to honor and respect that, but at the same time, you’ve got to stay confident and true and know that you possess the tools and knowledge to shut them down and be confident. That’s what we try to do each night and so far, it’s worked in our favor.”

The three Royals click so well that it becomes hard to remember they have only been together for less than a month.

“For the three of us, it’s more of the simplicity in our game,” Cox said. “O’Connor and Haines both have tremendous speed and they both have really good vision. It’s easy to play with guys like that when all three of you are on the same page and know your role when you step out on the ice. I think just being true to what our line is supposed to do each night is leading to our success.”

An early penalty to Elmira’s Corey Tamblyn gave the Royals the opportunity to change their fortunes with the man-advantage after going 0-for-5 the night before. They did so when Dale Mitchell banged one home from the top of the crease at 2:58 on the first shot of the game.

Zach McKelvie was taken hard into the board by Rob Bellamy and it took several minutes for him to get up at 11:54 of the first. Kenny Ryan came in to defend his teammate and a large scrum ensued between the players on the ice. After things were sorted out, the Royals came out with a four-minute power play. Mikael Bedard needed just 29 seconds of power-play time to make it 2-0 at 12:23.

The Jackals started to take things over in the second. They began to out-shoot the Royals 6-1, but after about 15 minutes of pressure, the Royals began to fight back and catch up in shots.

A cross-checking call to Matt Caruana could have proven an opportunity for the Jackals to climb back in the game, but the kill swung the momentum in favor of the Royals as they broke in on a 3-on-1 rush as Caruana hopped out of the box. O’Connor’s pass to Caruana bounced over his stick, but once he gained possession, he sent a pass back to O’Connor and he banked it off a defender and in with 1:02 left in the second for a 3-0 lead.

A turnover from goaltender Mark Owuya led to the end of his shutout. He went behind the net to play the puck, slightly lost his balance and lost sight of the puck between his skates. Radja poked the puck and dished it out front to Gazley and he ripped it by Owuya before he could recover in the net at 9:48 of the third.

Royals kept a hold of the two-goal lead, but it disappeared with goaltender Timo Pielmeier on the bench for the extra attacker. Radja launched one from the blue line that was tipped by Demkov on its way in to pull the Jackals within one with 49.5 seconds left in the game.

Fans and the Royals could exhale when, with 33 seconds left, Ryan ensured the win with his empty-net goal.

The win sets up the Royals with the opportunity to sweep the Jackals Friday night when the series moves north to Elmira.

“We knew it was a big game for us tonight to go up 2-0,” Courville said. “Now we’ve got to go in their building and play just as well and hopefully close it out. We don’t want to sit back here – we want to win. Hopefully we can do it next game.”

The biggest concern now lies in net. It is unknown whether Owuya will still be with the team come Friday or if Toronto will recall him.

“We plan on having him, as of right now,” Courville said. “I’ll make a phone call tomorrow to Toronto and see if that’s going to stay, but we don’t know 100 percent it’s going to happen.”

Owuya himself didn’t know if he’d still be around.

“I hope so,” he said. “I have no idea.”

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

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