Reading Royals vs Florida Everblades: ECSF Game 1

READING, Pa.

Yannick Tifu had a hand in all three Royals goals Friday night. (Candice Monhollan)

Yannick Tifu had a hand in all three Royals goals Friday night. (Candice Monhollan)

LAST ROUND

Reading Royals

The Royals stunned the ECHL by winning four of five games against the Greenville Road Warriors, with each of those wins coming from a shutout by two different goaltenders.

Riley Gill, the No. 1 goaltender going into the playoffs, posted the first two shutouts in Games 1 and 2. He was placed on reserve and stepping in was backup Mark Owuya, who himself could be considered a No. 1.

Though Owuya suffered a loss in his first game, he stepped up big time for the Royals and posted shutouts in Games 4 and 5.

The two are major factors for the Royals and both goaltenders are Nos. 1 and 2 in the league in goals against and save percentage during the postseason.

The Royals out-scored the Road Warriors 15-4 over the five games. Leading the way in points is captain Yannick Tifu, who has seven points (4G, 3A), and Nikita Kashirsky, who also has seven points (1G, 6A).

Florida Everblades

The Everblades went six games with the Elmira Jackals and won the series 4-2.

The Everblades only out-scored the Jackals 22-21, but the games weren’t nearly as close as it seems. It was a very lopsided affair at times with scores of 5-1, 8-2 and 7-2, showing that goaltending can be questionable and something the Royals could exploit.

PRE-GAME NOTES

The Royals 1-2 punch in net returned for the start of the Conference Semifinals against the Everblades.

The two teams, just like the last round, only faced each other twice during the regular season with the Royals winning both by a score of 4-2. The most recent game took place at the end of February, so there will be a little more familiarity between the two clubs than there was with the Road Warriors.

As of Thursday, Gill was activated off reserve and one would suspect he’ll return to the net for Friday’s game.

Currently, Gill is riding a shutout streak of 119:23 and Owuya’s streak is at 134:12. The ECHL record for longest shutout streak in the playoffs is 199:59.

The defending champion Everblades boast the likes of regular season leading scorer Mathieu Roy, who put up 89 points (38G, 51A) in 69 games and he’s still at it in the postseason. He currently leads the playoffs in goals with six.

Because of the high-scoring games in the previous round for the Everblades, they have a high 3.67 goals per game average compared to the Royals’ 3.00. On the flip side, the Everblades have a 3.50 goals allowed per game average while the Royals have an outstanding 0.80.

Still a big question mark for the Royals comes on the power play. They are only 8.0-percent on the man advantage. The Everblades are clicking at 33.3-percent. Once again on the other side of things, the Royals are perfect on the penalty kill, not allowing a single goal. The Everblades are a decent 85.2-percent.

It’s important for the Royals to get off to a good start. In the playoffs, they are a sparkling 4-0 when scoring first, though that’s not to doubt the one game when it didn’t happen. They looked down and out in the third period when they were behind 3-0, but battled back to 3-2 before an empty-netter sealed the loss.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

With Gill off reserve, he is back in net for the Royals. He will look to continue his stellar play since joining the club and continue on his shutout streak.

To no one’s surprise, Jesse Deckert will receive the start for the Everblades. He received all the starts in the first round, despite being yanked in Game 5. He has bloated stats thanks to the high-scoring series last round, sporting a 3.54 GAA and .886 SV%.

GAME TIME

It was action from the drop of the puck as both teams desperately wanted to be the one who got off to the better start with the games first goal. Unfortunately for the Royals, the goal would come for the Everblades.

A.J. Jenks scored 13:55 into the first period and ended Gill’s postseason shutout streak at 133:18.

With time winding down in the first, the Everblades tacked on one more, this time from Adam Brace with 12.2 seconds remaining to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room.

Whatever was said in the locker room during the first intermission did the trick as the Royals came out with a fire lit under them in the second period.

It took only eight seconds into the second period for the Royals to strike. Tifu flew down the left wing and took a shot at Deckert. The rebound kicked out to Stanislav Galiev, who buried it.

The Royals immediately went on a power play after the goal and it was Tifu once again making things happen. He was rocked hard into the boards and was looking for a call, but received none. Instead, the puck came to him and from behind the net, he banked the puck off Deckert’s back and in to tie the game at 2.

It was all Royals until the halfway point of the period. It took the Everblades 9:18 to register a shot on Gill in the second period. Up to that point, the Royals were out-shooting them 10-0.

A 5-on-3 for the Royals for a full minute could have given the Royals the lead, but unable to convert, the Everblades were able to compose themselves and on a delayed call, Roy scored to regain the lead for the Everblades and make the score 3-2.

The Everblades received a 5-on-3 of their own for a full two minutes and unlike the Royals, converted on it. Matthew Pistilli scored at 5:28 to extend the lead to 4-2 for Florida.

A 2-on-1 breakaway between Galiev and Tifu led to Tifu’s second goal of the night to draw the Royals to within one at 13:34 of the third.

The Royals were unable to tie the game with Gill pulled for the extra attacker and lost by a final of 4-3.

POSTGAME NOTES

The Everblades needed just 18 shots to win the game. They are a skilled bunch and it showed with four goals on that limited amount.

The four goals are the most allowed by Gill as a Royal. It is not a knock on his ability because he still played a strong game, but the Royals had some breakdowns in front of him and the nail in the coffin came on a 5-on-3.

PRESS ROOM

Yannick Tifu

“Maybe [a lack of] focus. We made a mistake. They played real well tonight. They won a championship last year, so they know what it takes. We made a mistake that we shouldn’t against a team that can score goals like that…After that, in the playoffs, it’s always hard trying to get back from a two-goal deficit. I thought we did a good job about it and then took two offensive zone penalties. My penalty was probably the one that cost the game. I should not probably be involved in that play – just back up and let it go…I thought we played good defensively tonight, too. We only have 18 shots. It’s just a matter of not making mistakes.”

“[Gill] played really well. He makes a couple good saves in a row that helps us out a lot. He’s a great goalie and I know he’s going to bounce back tomorrow. We didn’t bury our chances. We should have capitalized on a couple. It’s a mistake – it’s our mistake. It’s not Gill’s mistake. We didn’t backtrack on the second goal…We should not have made those mistakes. I really though that Gill played a hell of a game tonight. He gave us a chance to win the game.”

“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes. There’s no time to be disappointed. It’s a best-of-seven. They didn’t win the series tonight. If we would have won tonight, we would have won the series neither…They still have three to win and guys know it. We know we can play better than we did tonight.”

Kirk MacDonald

“A couple boneheaded plays on our part. They’re going to capitalize. Even after the first, the only chance they had, they scored. You can’t give good players chances like that.”

“[Not converting on the 5-on-3] didn’t help. It sounds stupid, but then the stupid ice wasn’t working, so then we stopped for a couple minutes. It kind of sucked the wind out of our momentum. They scored right after that. Things were rolling and we get a five-minute lull there where you’re just standing around. It didn’t help our cause, but it’s not really why we lost. It’s part of the game.”

“You can look at our second [power play] in the first period where we had three of four point-blanks where we just didn’t score. I don’t know what else you can do. You’ve just go to put them in the net. I know Galiev had that one-timer on the backdoor. [Nikita Kashirsky] had a one-timer in the slot. They were great opportunities. You’ve just got to work with the other guys out there and finish opportunities.”

“Obviously we’ve got to win tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world we don’t, but that’s a long battle. Tomorrow is obviously a big game. I think we come out and do what we did today, it’s going to be pretty hard for them. They’ve got a good team, but if we out-shoot them 2-to-1 again tomorrow, I think we’re going to have success. That’s all you can do and limit the mistakes.”

Larry Courville

“Whenever you have a 5-on-3 for over a minute, you should capitalize. I think we had our chances. The plays were there to capitalize, we just didn’t execute it. A couple backdoor plays to either Galiev or [MacDonald] that we need to make…We took two penalties on the same play that cost us, really, the game. In the first period, I thought we made two mistakes and they scored on them. No question. I didn’t think we were ready. One line wasn’t working that hard. I thought they were cheating a little bit offensively, but then again, they’re the only line that scored goals for us tonight. We need to get some secondary scoring. We definitely out-chanced them. Whenever you give up 16 shots, you probably should win the game.”

“[Florida’s] goalie played well. He made some saves that I’m sure if we bared down a little more, we would have capitalized. They’re a team that can score. I’m sure they’ve got three lines that can play with any offensive line in our league. We’ve got to be better defensively and be ready to play and play a full 60-minute game.”

“I think we could have won the game. It could have gone either way. Our first period definitely didn’t help us. In my opinion, we out-chanced them. Sometimes you win those, sometimes you don’t. [Gill] played well. We didn’t bare down when we had those opportunities to score and they did.”

MAGIC NUMBER

12

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

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