Reading Royals vs Florida Everblades: ECSF Game 2

READING, Pa.

Kirk MacDonald got the scoring started Saturday night with his shorthanded tally. (Candice Monhollan)

Kirk MacDonald got the scoring started Saturday night with his shorthanded tally. (Candice Monhollan)

PRE-GAME NOTES

The Reading Royals didn’t come out ready to play Friday night in the first game of the series against the Florida Everblades. They made some “boneheaded” mistakes, according to Kirk MacDonald, and the Everblades exploiting with goals.

The Royals dug themselves into two-goals deficits twice in the game and, despite the effort in the second and third period, they were unable to come out on top.

Though he allowed four goals, Riley Gill was still a solid presence in net. Goals from the Everblades came on breakdowns in front of him and on a 5-on-3.

The power play continued to be a struggle for the Royals. They capitalized on only one chance all night, which didn’t include a 5-on-3 for a minute.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

Despite his performance the night before, Royals head coach Larry Courville gave Mark Owuya the start in net. Owuya last played Games 3 through 5 in the Quarterfinals, with the last two wins coming via shutout. It’s a luxury for the Royals to be able to play either one knowing they are capable of being a No. 1 guy on any given night.

The Everblades returned to Jesse Deckert, who played a good game himself Friday and made some big saves to help Florida get the win.

GAME TIME

The Royals were looking to get a far better start tonight than the previous night, and they did just that.

With Ethan Cox in the penalty box, MacDonald stripped Mike Ratchuk at the Florida blue line and skated in on a breakaway and put the puck behind Deckert at 8:14 of the first.

After going 1-for-7 the night before on the power play, the Royals cashed in on their first opportunity tonight. Good puck movement between the first unit led to Yannick Tifu‘s snipe from the top of the left circle with one second left on the man-advantage.

The Everblades weren’t going to go away that easily, though.

David Rutherford poked in a loose puck around Owuya’s pads with 4:01 left in the period.

The Royals had a chance late in the first to extend the lead back to two with another power play, but were unable to convert and the period ended with the Royals up 2-1.

Just like the night before, the Royals scored quickly into the second period, this time needing 18 seconds.

Brett Flemming threw the puck on net and it hit Tifu’s skate and went on. Deckert was immediately pulled in favor of Brady Hjelle.

Roughly halfway through the second, T.J. Syner sent a shot on net, the rebound came back to him, and he was able to put it behind Hjelle on the second attempt, but it was promptly waived off by referee Tom Chmielewski, who ruled it was kicked in.

Hjelle made a spectacular sliding save to keep the game from getting out of reach with five minutes left in the second. Mayhem erupted after the whistle and Ian O’Connor and Charles Landry dropped the gloves behind the net. O’Connor continued to throw and land punches on Landry even when the jersey was over his head and he was sitting on the ice.

Tensions boiled over after the incident and more scrums went on after the whistle.

Mathieu Roy cost his team a chance to go on the power play late in the second when he shoved a Royal on his way to pick up his glove in the corner. He was slapped with an unsportsmanlike penalty and made it 4-on-4.

The Royals continued to hold the lead after two periods with a score of 3-1 and out-shot the Everblades 16-4 in the period.

The pace in the third was significantly less than in the second. Through 14 minutes, the two teams combined for only six shots.

Nikita Kashirsky took a boarding penalty with 4:43 left in the game and Corey Trivino blasted one from the right circle which beat Owuya to make the game more interesting in the final minutes.

After O’Connor missed an empty net in the closing minute, the Royals had to hang on for dear life as the Everblades kept pressuring Owuya and the Royals, but they were able to cling to the 3-2 win.

POSTGAME NOTES

Hjelle is a rookie out of Ohio State. His first pro appearance came last round when Deckert was pulled after allowing five goals to the Elmira Jackals. With the way he played in the game and stopping all 26 shots he faced, he had to have made a case with Everblades head coach Greg Poss to get the nod as the starter in Game 3.

Rutherford’s goal ended Owuya’s shutout streak at 150:11.

The Royals are now 5-0 in the postseason when scoring first.

Courville anticipates Evan Barlow returning to the club either Sunday or Monday. He also said Adam Comrie is heading out to San Jose to get looked at by the coaches and scouts for a possible NHL contract and as of now, Denny Urban will not be returning to the team.

PRESS ROOM

Dustin Stevenson

“Florida scored a couple on us early yesterday. Our start was good tonight. Last night, I didn’t think it was bad. Everybody felt good. It was just a couple unlucky breaks and they capitalized. Tonight, we had a pretty good start. Obviously when you get the first goal, it’s huge.”

“[Gill and Owuya] have been playing unreal for a long time now. Gill, I thought he had a solid game last night. We just gave [Florida] some Grade-A opportunities and they capitalized. It’s not hit fault at all…Owuya comes in tonight and he played a great game.”

Kirk MacDonald

“We’ve still got to do a bit better job finishing around the net, but I think we had a little bit more edge in our game tonight than we did last night, even though maybe the shots were about the same. There was a little bit more bite to our game and I think that was why we had the success. Other than the last five minutes when they pressed, I didn’t think they had a whole lot throughout the game. I think that’s why we’re having success. Not only have we got a lot of shots, but the fact that we’ve had a lot of puck possession and forcing the teams to chase us most of the night…We’re going to break through. Hopefully like the last series, the floodgates open as we go on.”

“You could feel it in the room before the game. There’s a sense of urgency which we haven’t really had to have for a long time. Our backs were against the wall a little bit. I’m proud of the guys and how they worked tonight and responded to that. It was awesome to see.”

“I think both [Deckert and Hjelle] played well. Here, you kind of thought when they pulled [Deckert], it might be a chance for point night, but whoever the guy was that came in and replaced him did a good job. He made some big saves for them. Easily could have been 4-1 or 5-1 after two periods.”

“I’ve never played against either [Decker or Hjelle] before. I’ve never heard of them before, but they’re both good goalies. [Deckert] didn’t get pulled because he was playing bad. I just think the coach wanted to get something going.”

“Having [O’Connor]  back is huge. It was nice. I definitely didn’t have to play as many minutes tonight as I did last night. That helps a lot. Coming down the stretch in the last 10 minutes of the game, you’re a little more fresh, got more jump in the legs. That helps. And [O’Connor] works so hard. His speed backs off D and makes it hard to play against.”

“We’re all over [O’Connor for missing the empty net]. That’s why we gave him the jacket. That was gross…I almost had a heart attack the last 45 [seconds], but that’s part of the game. They didn’t score, so we can laugh at it and move on. Those things happen. We had a great effort.”

Ian O’Connor

“[Coming back down] is always a possibility. I don’t think I was 100-percent sure about it. When you’re in that situation, you’ve got to take it day-by-day. If they tell you you’re going back, you’re going back. Otherwise, you’ve just got to work hard up there. That was kind of my mindset. They told me last night it was a possibility. They were going to talk to [Courville] and they told me this morning it was 100-percent. I was pretty excited.”

“I did a quick skate up there [in Manchester] this morning in their pre-game skate and came down here for the game tonight. The boosters picked me up.”

“All year, we worked here to get a high seed and position ourselves nice for the playoffs. Obviously we want to get call up to the AHL as individuals as well, but when you battle so hard with these guys for so long, I want to come down here and play in the playoffs with these guys and take this as deep as we can.”

“[The guys said] way to make it interesting [on missing the empty net]. I wish I had a good joke or an excuse why it happened. I just straight up missed it. It’s pretty embarrassing. You hear the cheers coming and then to hear everybody with the ‘ohhh,’ that’s not good…I think I thought [MacDonald] was going to score, so I waited a little bit and maybe I rushed a little bit. I don’t know. We’ll use that as my excuse.”

“At first, I was going to sit down and sulk and then I was thinking to myself [Courville] might throw me back out there, so I should probably get up and regroup and pay attention. The whole time I’m sitting there thinking. We had a couple big blocks at the end. Cox had a big block as usual, so that was huge and helped me out a lot and relax a little bit.”

“I was trying to get [Landry]‘s helmet off right off the bat…I couldn’t really see anything [with the jersey over my head]. I wasn’t really sure where he was, but I didn’t want him to punch me when I couldn’t see. I knew the refs were kind of occupied in the front, so I kind of just tried to defend myself the best I could until I felt a ref grab me and say stop. I guess I hit him a few times. I think he’s pretty banged up, so that’s not always what you want to see, but you always don’t want to be banged up yourself.”

Yannick Tifu

“I do think it was a must-win. We said before the game it has to be our best game of the year. Going to Florida was not going to be easy if we had to go down there 0-2. They’re defending champions. They know how to win on the road, they know how to win at home. They’re a really good team. Tonight, I thought they played well. I really think we played a great game, 60 minutes. Pretty interesting a little bit at the end, but I really thought that it was a must-win tonight and I think it was a key word in the room and everybody was dedicated to make sure they played their best game tonight”

“One thing that I love a lot is the blocked shots – commitment to block shots. I really think that’s what brings a championship team is how guys are committed to block shots…They’re still a good offensive team. Because they only have 35 shots in two games [doesn’t mean] that they didn’t play in our zone. They play in our zone. They know how to play…They’ve got some skills offensively, they’ve got some speed…You look at guys like [O’Connor] block shots like it’s his job every day and a guy like [MacDonald] is doing a hell of a job. It’s great for us to limit the shots and Owuya is making the big saves when it’s time to do the big saves.”

“[Deckert] played well tonight. It’s a bad break. It’s a shorthanded goal breakaway and then after that, [MacDonald]‘s doing a hell of a job in front of the net on a power play, puts pucks on net and the second goal I got, I just went to the net and it deflected on my skate. I really thought he made some big saves and I’m sure he’s going to bounce back the next game. It’s great to play the defending champ, but at the same time, we’re on top of the league, too. We finished first, so we have to make sure we’re not going out there thinking, ‘Oh, they’re better than us.’ I think that we’re better than them and right now it makes it a good series…I’m pretty sure it’s going to be longer than five games. It’s a process…It’s going to be a battle.”

“It’s just being lucky. Right now, I just go to the nice spot. Guys are giving some great passes. On my first goal, I have to give credit to [MacDonald] – he’s in front of the net. The goalie, I saw his eyes trying to find the puck and then I just put it on net. Then my second goal, [Kashirsky] made a great play to Flemming and then Flemming just threw it up front and it hit my skate. I’ve got to give credit to a lot of my teammates right now. They’re giving some nice passes. [Kashirsky] and [Stanislav] Galiev are playing unbelievable in the playoffs, too. Right now, hopefully I’ll touch some wood that it’s going to keep rolling that way, but I’m really happy with the start I have right now.”

“[Having O’Connor back] is huge. I really felt like our speed is what we’ve got to take advantage of…I usually call [O’Connor] Luis Mendoza from The Mighty Ducks. He’s so fast. Two years I’ve been calling him Luis Mendoza. It’s great because you’ve got [Barry] Almeida, and you’ve got Syner, who’s got some speed, [MacDonald]‘s got some speed, Galiev’s got some speed. In the back of [Florida]‘s mind, their D has got to give a little bit more gap because they know we’re coming with speed.”

Larry Courville

“It was a scary moment there at the end. Could have had the icing on the cake if O’Connor put that one in, but he wanted to make it interesting, I guess. I thought we played well. They scored the one on the power play. I thought that first goal they scored was a weak one. Again we had 40 shots. The power-play goal was nice, but they’re still getting a few chances that kind of scare you…They’re a team that capitalizes when they have the chance. It was nice to get the win.”

“When you’re out-shooting a team by that much, you expect to win the game by two or three goals, but it hasn’t been the case. We lost the first one, it was tight in the second one and they had a great chance there in the third with a couple of breakaways that [Owuya] came up big with saves. In the end, the guys got it done so I’m pretty happy.”

“O’Connor came in more as an extra forward tonight because he hasn’t been around and he hasn’t been in with the battle for the last probably two months, but I thought he played well when he got the opportunity. He got a fight and stuck up for one of his teammates. Could have had the game clincher. Made me a little bit nervous there. I thought he played well. I think the decisions up front are going to be really tough from now on. We’ve got guys sitting in the stands that on any other teams would probably play – a guy like [David] Vallorani, a guy like [Julien] Cayer, who works extremely hard.”

“I just think with any team that you haven’t seen a lot, the tendency in the first probably five to 10 minutes is to kind of make a judgement to see how the team’s going to play because you’re just not used to seeing them. Whether we sat back a little more initially in the first five or 10 minutes last night just to see the tempo of the game and see how things were going to develop. After that, I felt the guys played with a little more confidence and played pretty well and adjusted pretty well.”

MAGIC NUMBER

11

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

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