NORFOLK, VA- After losing in the final minute back on Tuesday night, the Reading Royals resumed their six-game road trip tonight down in Norfolk, Virginia as they took on the Norfolk Admirals. Tonight was the first of four meetings between the Royals and the Admirals with three of the four taking place inside the Norfolk Scope. The Admirals will make the lone trip to Reading on the final day of the 17-18 ECHL regular season Saturday, April 7th.
Earlier in the day, the Royals lost goaltender John Muse to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Muse had a terrific month of January as he went 9-2 with a goals-against average at 1.97, a .940 save percentage and one shutout. With these stats, the ECHL named John as the Warrior Hockey ECHL goaltender of the month. But the Royals weren’t down winning awards for the month of January as forward Matt Willows was named CCM player of the month. In 14 games in January, Willows put up over a point a game with 16 of them. Out of the 16 points, 13 of them were assists. In a separate transaction, the Phantoms loaned Chris McCarthy to Reading to give them a spark back on offense.
With the aforementioned Muse up in the AHL, Mark Dekanich got the start in net for the Royals. The 31-year-old is hoping to shake off this string of bad losses as he has lost his last eight decisions. As for the Admirals netminder, Ty Reichenbach got the start for Robbie Ftorek’s squad. Near the halfway mark of the opening period, the Royals found the scoreboard first as captain Derek Whitmore goes top-shelf for his seventh goal of the season. Michael Huntebrinker and Matias Cleland with the assists on the first goal of the night. Less than five minutes later the Royals would double their lead as the man with a hot stick Matt Willows extended his point streak to a career-high eight games with his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Chris McCarthy and Matt Wilkins with the assists this go around. In the first 20 minutes of the game, the Royals got off 19 shots which tied a season-high.
Less than two minutes into the second period the Admirals came out firing as captain Brodie Dupont found the back of the net for his 17th of the season to cut the Reading in half. Michael Young with the lone assist. With 12:48 to go in the middle frame the Royals would regain their two-goal edge as Chris McCarthy picked up his 14th goal of the season and second point of the night. Matt Wilkins would also pick up his second point of the game as he was awarded the lone helper. The Royals weren’t done as Adam Schmidt banked in his ninth lamplighter of the season to give the Royals a three-goal cushion. Scott Tanski and James de Haas with the assists. The Royals would continue to pour it on as 63 seconds later Chris McCarthy would pick up his second goal of the game and his 15th of the season. It only took 22 games but Nick Neville would pick up his first point as a Royal on the sixth goal of the night. This goal would send Reichenbach to the showers early as Jamie Murray was called into relief to stop the bleeding.
The Royals weren’t done lighting the lamp tonight as Derek Whitmore picked up his second goal of the game to extend the Reading lead to five. The All-Star Michael Huntebrinker with the only assist on Whitmore’s eighth goal of the season. Less than 10 minutes to go in the game Matt Willows would kick the extra point making the score 7-1 Royals on his team-leading 16th of the season. He is now two goals from tying his total last season with the Royals. Matias Cleland and Chris McCarthy with the assists, When the final horn sounded the monkey was lifted off of Mark Dekanich’s back as he picked up his first win in 49 days behind a 7-1 Royals dismantling of the Admirals behind a four-point night by Chris McCarthy in his return to the team. Win the win, the Royals would improve their record to 26-19-2 good for 54 points in the standings. These two teams will be back in action against each other tomorrow night once again from the Norfolk Scope.