Reading Royals vs Florida Everblades: ECSF Game 7

READING, Pa.

Evan Barlow has been big since returning to Reading, posting three points in four games. (Candice Monhollan)

Evan Barlow has been big since returning to Reading, posting three points in four games. (Candice Monhollan)

PRE-GAME NOTES

Well, here we sit, preparing for the deciding Game 7 between the Reading Royals and Florida Everblades. Needless to say, this is a must win for the Royals as they hope to move on to the Conference Finals for only their third time in team history to face the awaiting Cincinnati Cyclones.

Last night wasn’t the team’s best game this postseason, but it also wasn’t their worst. It was the first time the Royals lost in the playoffs after scoring the game’s first goal. They held onto the 1-0 lead and took the foot off the pedal in the third period and allowed too many chances for the Everblades, which they capitalized on quickly. They scored two goals 90 seconds apart and that was all they needed to force tonight’s Game 7.

The Royals need to come out with a high intensity game and just put their proverbial foot on the Everblades’ throat. If they do that, they can succeed in beating the Everblades and moving on. What is really needed is more scoring production, especially from those who have disappeared this postseason, and with Stanislav Galiev still out, it’s really important for the other lines to step up.

Riley Gill was still solid last night, despite the two goals. The second one was controversial from the Royals side, who believe the puck was batted in with a high stick. Gill made some big saves, especially in the third when the Everblades had a couple breakaway opportunities.

The only lineup change for the Royals comes on defense. Mark Mitera is out and Brock Shelgren will be in to take his place.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

The goaltending match-up will stay the same tonight with the Royals going with Gill and the Everblades with Jesse Deckert.

GAME TIME

The mind games started in warmups. So that no player could shoot and “score” on the opposing net at the end, a Florida player turned his net around and Mark Owuya flipped over his and gestured to the crowd for cheers to get them into it.

It was not the start the Royals were looking for. Whether it be jitters or tired legs, the Royals were flat-footed to open the period. They couldn’t connect any passes and the Everblades jumped all over them. Lucky for Reading, Gill was up to the task.

The Royals were able to get their feet under them as the period went on and had a good chance to score the opening goal on the game’s first power play, but Deckert had other ideas and made an amazing stick save on Nikita Kashirsky (video here).

After that, the Royals were able to take over the momentum, but the period came to an end scoreless once again with the shots 5-4 in favor of the Everblades.

On their second power play of the night, Evan Barlow attempted a wrap-around and Deckert seemed to have tweaked or hurt something. You could visibly see he was not right as he was slow to get back to his feet.

Joel Champagne, who was one of the players the Royals could use more production from, cashed in on the power play with a shot from behind the goal line which banked in off of the goaltender. Deckert wasn’t ready and seemed to have been thinking Champagne’s shot would be a pass in front instead (video here).

To say the nerves were gone by the second would be an understatement. With a big scrum in front of Deckert, Royals players were whacking away and Barry Almeida buried his second goal in two games.

The third period proved fatal for the Royals the night before, but tonight was a much different tune.

With eight minutes left in the game, Ian O’Connor took a hooking minor and at the same time, Florida head coach Greg Poss called for a measurement on Gill’s stick. After a few minutes, it was deemed to be an illegal stick and the Everblades received a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes.

Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, it sparked the Royals to play harder. They killed the penalties and came down the ice and scored a goal, courtesy of O’Connor (video of Gill’s glove save on 5-on-3).

The Royals put the icing on the cake with a power-play goal from Kirk MacDonald to make it 4-0 at 15:43.

The Everblades put an end to Gill’s shutout bid with 1:58 left with a goal from Brandon MacLean.

POSTGAME NOTES

After the game went two periods with barely any calls, the third period, especially from the 5-on-3 on, there were 36 penalty minutes.

The Royals advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in team history.

PRESS ROOM

Yannick Tifu

“I think [this] smile is worth a thousand words. It’s unbelievable. What we accomplished as a team all year long – that’s what the Reading Royals are all about. We never give up. After last night, I barely slept. I kept rewinding that second goal in my head…We’ve been coming together when it’s the right time. We have no words to describe how this team has been all year long.”

“I didn’t know it still existed, measuring the stick. It’s okay. They battled all the way to the end…I love how Gill answered. Gill gave us a chance last night to win, but we didn’t score enough goals. We know when Gill’s in the net, it’s going to be one, two goals, zero goals. We know he’s not going to give up three…We have to go through adversity to win a game and that’s what we did for seven games.”

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a four or five game series…I knew they were going to come out hard and in the third period, they were playing for their life.”

“It’s my second time, actually, beating Florida in a Game 7. Touch some wood, but I’m 3-0 in Game 7′s…It took five years to get back to this point right now, so I’m not going to screw it [up].”

“All year long, every time we lose a guy, I feel like someone is stepping up. A guy like Champagne, who was scratched one game in Florida, he’s unbelievable. He’s been our best player. He’s hitting, big goal tonight to get us going, an assist on the second. Just the way we’ve been stepping up every time.”

Kirk MacDonald

“Larry [Courville] did a really good job managing guys’ ice tonight…We rolled 10 forwards. As the game rolls on, that’s a big advantage. The fact we got more legs. You can see it. Their D had no gas at the end of the game and we just rolled them. They didn’t have a chance as soon as we started coming.”

“Screw them. They’ve kind of been whining and complaining all series and then they do that. I think that’s one of those ones where we say, ‘Screw you’ and we’re going to stop it. Gill stands on his head, [Ethan] Cox‘s blocking shots. That wasn’t going to stop us. I knew as soon as we killed that, the game was over. Whether we scored or not, we worked too hard for a cheesy thing like that. I haven’t seem something like that since the ’93 Finals when Montreal called one. Especially on a goalie. Whatever. They’re saving their season, but they’ve been whining and complaining all series about everything. We just focus on the task at hand and we just win.”

Riley Gill

“I got a batch of Warrior sticks in about three weeks ago. I had no idea they were illegal or anything. The other goalie was using Warrior sticks as well. I think that’s how they knew they were illegal, or whatever you want to call it, and that’s why they called it on me. I had no idea about it. I guess the blade of my stick was too wide, too thick.”

“Even though it did happen, you’ve just got to stay focused. They did it at the right time, obviously. I think they had it in their back pocket, waiting for it to be called. We killed it off and got the job done.”

“Me playing in Kalamazoo last year, I played in their building quite a bit. They play really well at home. They come out hard. It’s going to be a battle. I think it’s going to be another long series for us. We’ve just got to stick to our game plan. We proved we can beat anybody in the regular season.”

Larry Courville

“I think sometimes Game 7′s can go either way. I think the series has really gone that way. Every game has really been a nail-biter. It could have been anybody’s game.”

“I think [Cincinnati’s] a better team now than when we saw them. They’ve definitely got some key guys back…It’s going to be a tough series.”

“It was a desperation call. I probably would have called it the same way. If I had the chance and knew something was illegal, I probably would have called it. A lot of coaches don’t like it, but in the end, you’ve got to give your team the best chance to win. It was disappointing, but we ended up killing it.”

MAGIC NUMBER

8

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

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