Royals Stunned by Walleye in Nightmare Finish, 5-4
Royals Unable to Hold Two-Goal Lead with Less Than Six Minutes Left in Regulation
January 21, 2012
Reading, PA – The Reading Royals of the ECHL (16-17-3-3=38, 3rd Atlantic Division), affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, were defeated by the Toledo Walleye (16-19-1-2=35, 4th North Division), 5-4, at Sovereign Center in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Royals held four separate leads but were unable to hold off a late charge by the Walleye, who rang off three goals with less than six minutes left in regulation to pull out the regulation win. This game marked the fifth time this year—in eight total tries—that the Royals have been unable to secure a win despite holding a lead as they entered the third period at the Sovereign Center (3-3-0-2).
Paul Dainton (loss, 7-4-2-1, 33/38) played solid but was pounded with pressure down the stretch and sustained his second loss in three starts with the Royals (1-2-0-0). Toledo’s Rob Nolan (win, 8-11-2-0, 33/37) did enough to get a win in his first career start against the Royals. Reading’s power play was blanked on six chances with the man advantage, including a critical stretch late in the first when the Royals were awarded four straight minutes of power play—which included two full minutes of five-on-three within that stretch. Toledo was unable to capitalize with the man advantage, either (0-4).
This one started on a great note for the Royals, who struck 52 seconds into the game. Ryan Cruthers took a feed from Yannick Tifu and carried into the left corner. Cruthers slid a pass intended for Tyler Brenner, who got a piece of the puck as it went by him and onto the stick of the trailing Ray Macias, who in turn was charging down the slot. Macias blew a hard, low shot by Nolan for his fourth of the year to give Reading the team’s first lead of the night.
Toledo tied the game at one 12:36 into the first, when a defensive zone turnover by the Royals turned into a golden scoring chance for the Walleye, as Adam Estoclet fed Harrison Reed for a point blank look. Dainton made that save, but the puck bounded to the left side of the crease, where Aaron Lewicki swiped it home for his seventh of the year.
The Royals took the team’s second lead of the night 10:44 into the second. Derrick LaPoint started the rush from the defensive zone with a pass Olivier Labelle, who in turn dished the charging Yannick Tifu. As he cut into the mid-slot, Tifu fired low blocker on Nolan for his eleventh of the year.
The scoring free-for-all in the third started 5:37 in when Toledo tied the game again (at two) when Kyle Rogers charged down the right wing side, cut along the goal line, and slid a cross-crease pass to a charging Bryan Rufenach, who was able to somehow get enough of the puck as he was blowing by the left pipe to redirect it home for his tenth of the year.
Reading took their third lead of the game (3-2) 12:53 into the third, when Olivier Labelle broke into the offensive end wide on the right wing side. He cut to the middle of the ice and got a shot that was rejected by Nolan, but the rebound ricocheted into Labelle’s skates. He was able to control and slip it through a Walleye defender who tried to make the save on the goal line with Nolan down and out of position. For Labelle that was his team leading seventeenth goal of the year.
The nightmare for Reading started with just 5:41 left in regulation, when Lewicki bagged his second of the game, as he was able to bat a bouncing in from the crease after the Walleye crashed and created a mad scramble around the Royals’ net. Toledo tied the game at four with 1:14 left in regulation on a similar play—with the net empty and the sixth attacker on the ice—which ended with Kyle Rogers chipped one through from the left side of the net. Ten seconds after that, Harrison Reed bagged what proved to be the game winner on a hot blast from the high slot that blew by Dainton low-blocker. The Royals tried to respond with a hard press hard down the stretch, but came up empty despite getting several grade-A chances with time ticking down, as the team’s home record 5-11-1-2.
The Royals complete a season-long four game home stand Wednesday night (January 25, 2012 @ 7:05) when the team faces the Wheeling Nailers for the seventh time this year. That will be College Night with select draft beer just $2.00. The game night broadcast on Wednesday will start at 6:35 pm with the Red Robin Gourmet Burger Pre-Game Warm-up Show on ESPN Radio 1240 am in Reading. Streaming audio is available free of charge courtesy of America One through the Royals’ website, www.royalshockey.com.