READING, Pa. – The 2017-18 season of Reading Royals hockey saw the team go 39-24-9, good enough for 87 points, third place in the north division and fifth place in the eastern conference. The Royals would meet the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the playoffs which saw the Monarchs taking out the Royals in four games. Three of the games were decided in overtime including two games that went to double overtime. In this article, we will be taking a look back at the top five Royals games from this past season in my opinion.
5. Surviving Toledo’s Late Push (1/24/18)
The opening game of the season’s second half pitted the Royals against the Toledo Walleye. The two teams met in late October, in a game where the Royals defeated the Toledo Walleye by the score of 4-3, thanks to an Alex Krushelynski overtime goal.
Anyway, back to the game that made the countdown. Through the first 31 minutes of the game, the Royals had all the momentum with John Muse looking stellar in net. As the game was winding down, the fans inside the Santander Arena thought the Royals were going to cruise to victory. But, in the final minute, Toledo scored two goals, including one with 11 seconds to go in regulation, to force the extra session.
Looking gassed in the overtime, the Royals held the highly powered Walleye offense to only two shots on goal. After 65 minutes of hockey, the score still deadlocked, the game headed to a shootout, the second for Reading in their last three games. Royals magician in the skills challenge, Michael Huntebrinker, scored the lone goal in the shootout.
4. Opening Night (10/21/17)
A new era of Reading Royals hockey was about to begin as Kirk MacDonald was named the seventh head coach in the team’s history. MacDonald coached the Royals for their final nine games of the ’16-17 season after Larry Courville was relieved of his duties one day after clinching a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight season. Joining Kirk behind the bench was Patrick Wellar. The two were on the Kelly Cup Championship team back in 2013. Wellar joined the Royals after being an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Cyclones the previous season.
In the Royals season/home opener, they took on the Adirondack Thunder. The two teams met in the preseason two weeks before, with Reading winning both games. The Royals got their faithful out of the seats early with two goals in the game’s first two minutes. Chris McCarthy was the first Royal to light the lamp 89 seconds into the game, joined 17 seconds later by Alex Krushelynski, who doubled the Reading lead. In the final minute of the first, Matt Willows would fire one past Adirondack goalie Nic Riopel giving the Royals a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. When the second period started the Royals continued to attack Riopel and Adam Comrie was able to give Reading a sizeable 4-0 lead less than two minutes into the second.
But the Thunder matched the Royals’ goal run with one of their own, scoring four goals late including a power-play goal by J.C. Campagna to tie the game at four. After 60 minutes much to the shock of the 4,178 fans in attendance, overtime was needed to settle this one. The overtime period only lasted only seven seconds, as Royals captain Derek Whitmore skated past the Thunder defense and beat Riopel to give the Royals a 5-4 win. It was the second-fastest overtime winning goal in ECHL history.
3. Anthony Stolarz Records First Win in Almost a Year (3/17/18)
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Royals were hoping they had the luck of the Irish on their side after dropping their last two games both with Anthony Stolarz in net. Stolarz was sent down to the Royals from their NHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the first time Stolarz has played since April of 2017 after going through rehab after surgery to repair two torn meniscus.
Before the game, the Royals retired fan favorite and team captain from the 2013 Kelly Cup Championship team Yannick Tifu’s number 10 to the Santander Arena rafters. Tifu became only the second Royals player to have his jersey number retired, joining former player and head coach Larry Courville.
Brampton jumped out to an early 1-0 lead less than eight minutes into the first thanks to one of Tifu’s former teammates from the Kelly Cup team David Vallorani. Reading would respond with a vengeance as they scored three goals 10 minutes later including one by Matt Wilkins 47 seconds after the Vallorani goal.
From that point on, Stolarz has shaken off the rust he’d shown in his previous two games with the Royals and made multiple critical saves including 27 in the final two periods to give the Royals a 5-1 victory in front one of their fourth-largest crowd of the season. It was the first win for Anthony Stolarz since March 26, 2017, when he helped the Lehigh Valley Phantoms defeat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Following the game, Stolarz would pack up his bags and return to the Phantoms signaling the end of his time in Reading in the books or does it.
With the logjam of goalies with the Flyers and Phantoms and the top prospect Carter Hart expected to join Alex Lyon with the Phantoms next season do the Flyers send Anthony to Reading to begin the year, or does Ron Hextall send Stolarz to another AHL team to get some games in or does he keep with the Phantoms leaving them with three goalies? It will be something to follow as the season gets closer.
2. Branden Komm Shutouts Cincinnati Cyclones in Team Debut (2/16/18)
One of the most underrated Royals games from last season took place on Friday, February 16th, when the Reading Royals took on the Cincinnati Cyclones to kick off a busy weekend of hockey inside the Santander Arena. Earlier in the week, the Royals made a trade that surprised many. Kirk MacDonald sent the ECHL playing rights Adam Comrie (who was up in the AHL with the Utica Comets) to the Manchester Monarchs for Branden Komm. Komm would spilt time with Mark Dekanich between the pipes for the Royals while John Muse was up in the AHL.
In his first game as a Royal, Komm was lights out, stopping 35 Cyclones in route to an 8-0 Reading victory. The game was the most lopsided victory in the 17-year history of the Royals and the eight goals scored were the second highest total for the team this season. As the game was passing the halfway point, MacDonald’s squad forced Jonas Johannsson to the bench. Former Elmira Jackals netminder Jason Kasdorf was next in the crease, and his night didn’t fare much better.
Komm’s shutout was the first of two he had that weekend as two days later against the Wheeling Nailers, Komm would stop all 25 shots faced in a 6-0 Royals victory. His excellent play in net stopping all 60 shots were rewarded by being named the ECHL Goalie of the Week the following week.
1. The Comeback vs. Manchester to Clinch a Playoff Spot (3/30/18)
It should come as no surprise that this game is the number one Royals game from last season. Entering their final regular-season matchup of the year against the Monarchs, the Royals needed a win and a Wheeling Nailers loss to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Two nights prior, the Royals would put a 6-0 beatdown on the Monarchs behind a 32-save shutout performance by John Muse.
In this contest, the Monarchs came out with a vengeance, scoring three goals in the first while Charles Williams was working on a shutout of his own. The Royals headed to the locker room after one to a shower of boos from the fans inside the Santander Arena.
When the second period started, there was a new Royals team. The Royals scored three goals to tie the game at three after 40 minutes. In the third period, with both sides trying to retake the lead, Alexx Privitera who was able to beat Muse to give Manchester a 4-3 lead.
With 2:16 to go in regulation, Ryan Penny scored what could be considered the biggest goal of the season, stuffing in Michael Huntebrinker rebound to tie the game at four. After 60 minutes the teams would play in overtime and with neither goaltender budging a shootout was needed to settle this one.
In the skills contest, Kirk MacDonald sent out Huntebrinker to get the momentum on Reading’s side, and just like he did all season, he was able to give the Royals an early 1-0 lead in the shootout. Both goalies played well and it all came down to Spencer Watson against John Muse. Watson was unable to beat Muse and the Reading Royals would go 4-0 in the shootout and complete the comeback with a 5-4 shootout victory over Manchester. With the win and an earlier Wheeling loss, the Royals would be playing playoff hockey for the ninth consecutive season.
And with that, those are the top five Royals games from the 17-18 season. Do you agree with my choices and if you don’t what game(s) did I miss?
As for the ’18-19 season of Reading Royals hockey, it gets underway on Saturday, October 13th, against the Worcester Railers. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @SinBinRoyals for up-to-date information on the Royals.
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