Royals enter Christmas on high note

Philipp Grubauer has been a key piece to the Royals record-breaking streak. (Candice Monhollan)

Philipp Grubauer has been a key piece to the Royals record-breaking streak. (Candice Monhollan)

At this point in the ECHL season, it’s hard to remember the start the Reading Royals got off to back in October.

It took four games for the Royals to find themselves in the win column – and with a shutout – but it took another four games for them to taste another victory.

The 1-5-0-1 start was mind boggling, to say the least. The Royals roster may not have been made up of superstars, but it sure wasn’t bad enough to have that record.

After the win on Oct. 21 against the Wheeling Nailers, they faced off again five days later and were trounced 7-3. After the game, the players called a team meeting, and though nothing has come out about what was discussed, suffice it to say it did the trick.

Though the wins didn’t start coming for another 12 days – or three games – head coach Larry Courville saw a noticeable difference with his team.

No longer were the losses by a large margin. From Oct. 12 through Oct. 26, the Royals had a minus-8 goal differential and in the two games after the meeting, they were a minus-2.

Then in November, the Royals decided they wanted to make history.

LET’S GO STREAKING

After the terrible 1-5-0-1 start, the Royals turned around and did the improbable by winning 11 in a row.

And they didn’t even stop there.

The team, backed by reliable and solid Philipp Grubauer in net, swept Trenton over the first weekend of November and continued to roll, knocking out win-after-win against divisional opponents and others in the East.

The Royals broke the franchise record of nine consecutive wins Nov. 21 against the South Carolina Stingrays in a nail-biter which went to a shootout.

Since their last loss on Oct. 28, the Royals didn’t lose another game for 26 days.

Over that run, the Royals were a plus-19 in goal differential, out-scoring their opponents 41-22.

For goaltender, Grubauer went 9-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Brandon Anderson went 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .941 SP. Combined, they had a 1.96 GAA and .921 SP.

LET’S DO IT AGAIN

The streak came to an end Nov. 24 against the Evansville IceMen and though they tacked on another win the next game, they lost again Nov. 30.

On the win smushed between the two losses, Grubauer broke a franchise record with 10 consecutive wins as a goaltender before his loss two nights later.

After the little bout of losses, the Royals decided to go for another streak of wins, which currently sits at eight on the holiday break.

A LOOK AT THE RECORD

Since the run began at the beginning of November, the Royals have gone 20-2, are 14-0-0-1 when scoring first, undefeated when leading after two periods and Grubauer is 17-1 in his last 18 starts.

They sit first in the Eastern Conference with 43 points and are second in the league, trailing the Alaska Aces by three points. Keep in mind, Alaska has also played two more games than the Royals.

There’s no reason the Royals can’t keep the streak going after the break. No major moves have been made and no recent injuries. The only roster move which seems a constant is Brett Flemming‘s trips to and from the Hershey Bears.

NUMBERS BREAKDOWN

43 points and a 21-7-0-1 record – First in the East, second overall

2-0 overtime record – Tied for best in the East, second overall

3-1 shootout record – Second in the East

16.2 power pay – 16th overall and needs some improvement

87.2 – Tied for best in the league and have gone perfect in the last six games

1o6 goals for – Tied for fifth in the league

79 goals against – Fourth in the league

PLAYER RANKINGS

Despite the streak, the Royals don’t have a single player in the top 20 in points, signifying a very balanced team. Yannick Tifu sits 23rd with 28 points.

2.30 GAA by Grubauer – Third in the league

.911 SP by Grubauer – 12th in the league

17 wins by Grubauer – First in the league

559 saves by Grubauer – Seventh in the league

Plus-13 by Adam Comrie – 10th in the league

3-for-3 by Denny Urban in the shootout – Fourth in the league

22 points for David Vallorani as a rookie – Eighth in the league

HAVE THE ROYALS EVER BEEN THIS GOOD BEFORE CHRISTMAS?

Actually, they have. After a lot of research, the 43 points by Game 29 is not the best the Royals have done. They had 44 points by this point in 2005-06. That team went on to a 42-23-3-4 record and lost in the division finals.

LOCKOUT CONCERNS

As always, the lockout is on everyone’s mind. If the NHL can somehow come to an agreement and get some portion of the season in, the Royals you know now will look vastly different.

It’s already a known fact Grubauer will shoot directly up to Hershey, leaving the Royals with just Sergey Kostenko, who has yet to see time in the net this season. Many prospects will also move up the ladder and even ECHL contract guys will get a look by the AHL (such as Urban and Kirk MacDonald).

Though the chemistry and talent will be hurt, just take solace that every team in the league will face the same situation.

As for me, I hope the lockout continues and the ECHL and AHL can shine this season.

And let’s face it, the Royals are fun to watch this year.

PREDICTION

Like the players, I’m not going to toss around the Kelly Cup champions term. Can it happen? Of course. Will it happen? No one can honestly say.

What I will say is they are a playoff caliber team, barring any major injuries or call-ups to key players, which is always a possibility.

CHARTS FOR YOU NUMBERS GEEKS

I leave you all with the charts I made for research so you fans can really see what’s going on and judge for yourself how this team is doing.

Hope you all have a great holiday and look forward to returning to the Sovereign Center Dec. 28.

*Click on each to enlarge the chart

Royals Points per Season:

Royals_Points_Per_Season
Royals Game Stats:

Royals_Game_Stats
Royals Streak Stats:

Royals_Numbers_On_Streak

 

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Sports

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