Reading Royals vs Greenville Road Warriors: ECQF Game 1

READING, Pa.

Riley Gill posted his second career shutout in the playoffs. (Candice Monhollan)

Riley Gill posted his second career shutout in the playoffs. (Candice Monhollan)

PRE-GAME NOTES

The Reading Royals and Greenville Road Warriors only squared off twice during the regular season, with the Royals victorious in both by scores of 5-2 and 6-3.

The Royals overall playoff record is 36-33, while the Road Warriors are 6-8.

Only Yannick Tifu, Ethan Cox and Mark Owuya were with the Royals last season for the playoffs, in which they were knocked out in five games by the Elmira Jackals.

Looking at numbers from the regular season:

  • Royals finished the season with a record of 46-19-3-4 (99 points) and the Road Warriors ended 36-28-2-6 (80 points).
  • Royals had an average of 3.42 goals per game (T4th) while the Road Warriors had 3.14 (T9th)
  • Royals allowed an average of 2.57 goals per game (3rd) while the Road Warriors allowed 3.04 (12th)
  • Royals were 18.0% on the power play (11th) and the Road Warriors were 13.6% (T21st)
  • Royals were 84.9% on the penalty kill (3rd) and the Road Warriors were 80.8% (17th)
  • When scoring first, the Royals were a dominating 32-4-5 and the Road Warriors were 22-6-2.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

Riley Gill will be the No. 1 goaltender for the Royals, and deservedly so. Since he was signed, he went 10-3-0-1 with a 1.28 goals-against average and .952 save percentage with three shutouts. He amazingly allowed two or less goals in 13 of the 14 games he appeared in, and one or less in nine of those. He has a proven track record in the postseason after helping the Kalamazoo Wings to the Conference Finals last season, playing in all 14 games.

Connor Knapp will be the starter in Game 1 for the Road Warriors. He was reassigned to the Road Warriors from the Rochester Americans on Feb. 9. He played in 12 games with a record of 5-7 and a 3.05 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

GAME TIME

Through the first 15 minutes of period one, the Road Warriors had only one shot to the Royals’ 8. Brett Flemming and Matt Lowry dropped the gloves about midway through the period (video here).

Momentum shifted late in the period when the Road Warriors went on the power play with David Vallorani in the box. At one point, Gill lost his stick going behind the net to play the puck, but the Royals survived and end the period scoreless. Shots were 9-5 in favor of the Royals.

A shorthanded breakaway chance was the best scoring opportunity for either side near the beginning of the second period. T.J. Syner made a nifty behind-the-back pass to Flemming coming down the middle of the ice. Flemming hit the crossbar and the game continued to be scoreless.

Royals opened the scoring at 12:01 of the second. Nikita Kashirsky with all the patience in the world, passed the puck over to Tifu, who went five-hole on Knapp.

Though the Road Warriors may be the No. 8 seed, they stayed right with the Royals throughout the first two periods, despite trailing by one. Shots were 8-7 in favor of the Royals in the second period.

Royals had a prime opportunity to get some cushion with a 5-on-3 for 1:48 halfway through the third period, but didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

The game got very chippy and emotions boiled over in the third. Alex Berry and Steven Delisle dropped the gloves late in the third period while the Royals clung to their 1-0 lead (video here).

With 3:08 left in the third, Jordie Johnston took a terrible double-minor for butt-ending, putting the Royals on the power play for the remainder of regulation.

Mike Marcou was knocked down in a heap while battling for the puck in the corner with 1:03 left in the third. He stayed down for a bit and had to be helped off the ice by the trainer. He seemed to be slightly dazed as he headed for the locker room.

A penalty to Kirk MacDonald with 58 seconds left made the last minute intense and gave a 5-on-4 to the Road Warriors with Knapp pulled for the extra attacker.

The Royals were able to hang onto the 1-0 lead and end the game that way. Shots were 9-6 in favor of the Royals in the third.

POSTGAME NOTES

Gill posted a shutout in the first game of the playoffs, stopping all 18 shots he faced. It’s the second of his career in the postseason.

The Royals’ song after a win is Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat.” When asked about why that song, Tifu replied:

“It’s been since the beginning of the season. I don’t know who started it and we forgot about it. It kind of got away a little bit. Some guys got called up and stuff like that…It was our winning song at the beginning of the season. I don’t know who came up with that, to be honest. I think it was Berry or [David] Marshall – I think it was, actually. It was pretty funny, so we kept going with that. I think we have to come back to our old habit. We don’t want to change our game because it’s playoffs, but we want to bring what makes us successful in this season…Anything it takes to win those 15 more. I’ll be ready to listen to that one.”

PRESS ROOM

Yannick Tifu

“I really thought Greenville played well, but playoff hockey is a game of mistakes. They probably didn’t chip the puck out. I don’t really know what happened. I just know it created a turnover…[Kashirsky] made a great move – a little spoon – and I was just waiting for the pass. At the second he made that pass, it hit the stick and so I was on my way back to backcheck. I really thought they were going to break the play. I went way out and I just saw the puck and pushed it in. Playoff hockey – just put some pucks on net. You never know. I really thought that goalie [Knapp] played well tonight, made some great saves.”

“The little details people don’t see – I’m sure they see it, but they don’t talk. People will talk about Gill making a shutout, myself scoring a goal, [Kashirsky] making a great pass. How many blocked shots did we have tonight? Cox dedicated his life tonight. A great blocked shot in the first period on [Sebastien] Pische and Delisle is 6-5, or whatever he is – he’s a big boy – that was a great shot and Cox blocked it with his arm. Guys are dedicated. When I came before the game, I really thought that we didn’t go too high or too low in our emotions. I really thought that it was perfect. After the game, guys are banged up, but it’s playoff hockey. I’m really happy with the way the guys showed up tonight. I’m really happy we could win this game 1-0. With Gill in the net, I’m not too nervous about it. I know he’ll make the save. Even on the bench with Owuya, I know if he ever had to come in, I’m not too nervous with the two goalies in.”

“I really think that [Bobby] Shea and [Dominic] Jalbert, for guys who maybe didn’t play 10 or 12 games in the [ECHL] right now, they stepped up their game. Flemming is just bring that movement. He skates really well…He’s got a good vision, he moves the puck really well and defensively, he’s just dedicated to block shots and do those little details. That fight tonight got us going. Big fight by Flemming. I didn’t see that one coming, to be honest, but he stepped in and made a great fight for us and then we moved from there.”

Riley Gill

“It’s playoff hockey – definition of it right there. Great battle. Both teams played hard. We got that one goal and that’s what it’s all about.”

“[Brendan Connolly] gave an extra shot to me and I just gave him a shot back. It’s playoff hockey. It’s going on all over the ice – a lot of little scrums and battles and stuff like that. It’s going to be a long series, so we’ve just go keep going.”

“The first 10 minutes or so, I had only one or two shots. That’s tough to get into the game, to get a rhythm going. We’re playing well. You can’t ask for much more if your team’s playing well at the other end, you’ve just got to stay in it and stay focused and we were able to do that tonight.”

“It’s ratcheted up a notch during playoffs. We answered the bell tonight pretty good.”

“We’re very deep in our team…We’re not looking going deep in the playoffs. We’re just taking it one game at a time, one period at a time. We’re just trying to win the period and win the game.”

“We played a complete 60 minutes tonight and that’s all we can ask for. Play every period, win every period and go from there.”

Larry Courville

“It was something I talked about after the game – sometimes in the playoffs, one goal is good enough…I thought we played really well in the first period…I’d like to see a little more net presence, a little more traffic there so we get those second and third opportunities. Power play was not very good tonight. We’ve got to capitalize on the 5-on-3, for sure. I don’t know if we even got a shot off. We’ll look at some video and break that down, maybe work on it a little bit. Otherwise, I thought our PK was great. Gill made some saves when he needed to. I thought we played well as a team – every single guy out there.”

“I think we got lucky to actually get it in. It’s a great play by [Kashirsky]…d-man made an almost pretty good play. Tifu just got a piece of it. Actually, I didn’t think it went in until Tifu jumped up. I didn’t see it go by the goaltender. Definitely needed one to win, so it was great.”

“All the power plays, we had a penalty at the end. We kind of gave them a 5-on-5. They were pushing in the third, for sure. They out-played us a little bit, besides the power play opportunities we had…I thought we did a pretty good job just denying them a lot of puck possession, getting the pucks out, just to the neutral zone, forcing them to back out. It was an all-around good 60-minute game and those kind of games you’ll win in the playoffs.”

“The was probably their game plan. In my opinion, we have a little bit more depth in our lineup right now and they’re trying to take key guys off the ice and force them into bad penalties. It’s always been an issue in the playoffs. We’ve got to worry about the score instead of worrying about getting payback and hopefully get a power play out of it and capitalize. We’ve got to make them pay when that happens.”

MAGIC NUMBER

15 wins to go.

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

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