NORFOLK, Va. – After sustaining only their second home loss past regulation back on Wednesday night, the Reading Royals wrapped up their regular season road schedule Friday night in Norfolk. This was the was the third meeting of the season between these two Eastern Conference opponents this season and the first of a back-to-back to end the season.
Mark Dekanich got the start for the Royals in net for Kirk MacDonald’s squad. Dekanich has faced the Admirals earlier this season and recorded a 22-save shutout in a 2-0 Royals victory back on February 3rd. Dekanich has a lifetime record of 9-3 against Norfolk since the Admirals joined the ECHL before the 2015-16 season. Out of those nine wins against Norfolk, six of them have come while dawning a Royals uniform. As for the Admirals netminder, Ty Reichenbach got the call for Robbie Ftorek’s squad. This season against the Royals has been a struggle for Reichenbach as he has given up six goals in a game-and-a-half including five in the first meeting between these two teams back in early February.
Less than four minutes into the game the Royals would find the scoreboard as Matt Willows, who earlier this week was named to the all-ECHL second team, found the back of the net for his team-leading 31st goal of the season on a beautiful pass by his linemate Chris McCarthy. With the goal, Willows has hit the 70-point plateau, becoming the first Royal to have a 70-point season since Olivier Labelle put up 71 points for the team during the ’14-’15 season.
A little over five minutes later, the Royals would double their lead as Mark Bennett would skate right out front of the crease off a pass from for his fifth of the season and fourth of the season.
As the Royals second power play was nearing a close Ryan Penny would pick up his 14th goal of the season with a blast from the left circle to give the Royals a three-goal cushion in a first period where it seemed they had all the momentum. When the first-period horn sounded the Admirals couldn’t get to the locker room quick enough as they could only put up six shots on Dekanich.
The Royals wouldn’t take their foot off the gas in the second period, as following an Admirals turnover, the Royals would show off their speed. Matt Willows had a beautiful give-and-go with Matt Wilkins, who connected for his 19th of the season, which is continuing to add on to his career high.
Less than two minutes, all-star Michael Huntebrinker would net his 20th lamplighter of the season to extend the Reading lead to five. With frustration boiling in their blood the Admirals wanted to make sure they weren’t going to get shutout and thanks to a deflection by Kenton Helgesen that problem went out the window. For Helgesen, the goal was his fourth of the season and his first since December 8th.
The Admirals wouldn’t go down without a fight as just like the Royals they would capitalize on their second power play of the night as Darik Angeli ripped one from the left circle for his 24th of the season.
Less than two minutes to go the Royals would add one more as Jack Riley picked up his first professional goal.
When the final horn sounded at the Norfolk Scope for the final time this season the Reading Royals took down the Norfolk Admirals tonight by the score of 6-2. With the win, the Royals locked up a top-three seed in the North Division, and will open the playoffs next weekend on the road.
The Royals end the road portion of their ’17-’18 schedule with a record of 15-14-7. It’s the first time the Royals don’t record at least 20 road wins since the 2009-10 season when they went 16-17-3. The 15 road wins are the team’s lowest since the ’06-’07 season when the club went 15-18-3.
As for their overall record, the win would improve Reading’s record to 38-24-9 good for 85 points in the standings. The two teams will now load up their respective team buses and make the trek up to the Santander Arena to wrap up the home-and-home set to put a bow on their regular season schedules. Puck drop is at 7:00 EST.