The Reading Royals (win, 22-12-1-0=45) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Elmira Jackals (loss, 12-20-2-2=28), 3-2, in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Matinee at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Reading struck on the team’s first shot and held two different two goal leads (at 2-0 and 3-1); but Elmira scored on a late first period penalty shot and a third period five-on-three power play to keep things tight. The Royals, however, thanks in no small part to the performance of goaltender Brandon Anderson (win, 10-6-1-0, 30/32), were able to hold off a strong third period push from the Jackals to notch Reading’s seventh consecutive win.
For the second time in the last three games against the Jackals (and the third time in Reading’s last five games), the Royals scored on the team’s first shot. This time it came thirty-three seconds into the game, when Brett Flemming threw a fluttering wrister from the right point that was deflected by Brandon Blandina and eluded goaltender Scott Greenham (loss, 6-10-1-1, 27/30) for Blandina’s third of the season.
Reading took a 2-0 lead 8:08 into the first period when Ryan Cruthers made a deft toe-drag through the left circle to gain a point blank chance inside the left dot. Cruthers, who was playing in his team-record 177th career game as a Royal, didn’t waste the chance. He fired a low snap shot glove side on Greenham for his ninth of the year. That goal extended Cruthers’ point streak to ten games (7g-12a=19pts).
Elmira cut the Royals’ lead in half with 15.4 seconds left in the first period. Mike Vaskivuo was sprung by a long stretch pass to the offensive blue-line on a clean break into the Reading end. Vaskivou was hauled from behind by a Reading defender and was awarded a penalty shot. He didn’t waste that chance. A left shot, Vaskivou picked up the puck on the center dot, swung wide to the left and, as he cut to the middle, fired back against the grain to the left side of the net. Anderson got a chunk of the shot but not enough to keep it above the goal line. For Vaskivou that was his seventh of the year.
Reading regained the two-goal advantage (3-1) 9:18 into the second period, when Mike Banwell sprang T.J. Syner up the left wing side into Elmira’s end. Syner carried deep into the offensive zone and dropped to the trailing Josh Brittain, playing in his first game as a Royal. Brittain ripped a hard bullet from the top of the left circle that beat Greenham high short-side for what would prove to be the game winning goal.
Elmira once again battled back to make it a one goal game—this time on their second five-on-three power play chance of the game, which resulted when Brett Flemming was assessed with a five minute match penalty for an illegal hit to the head 17:37 into the second followed in relative short order with a hooking minor against Yannick Tifu with 44 seconds remaining in that period. The five-on-three carried over to start the third, and the Jackals capitalized 1:04 into the period on a beautiful passing sequence that freed Vaskiviou at the top of the crease for a pass from Ludwig Karlsson, which originated along the goal line on the right side. Vaskivou angled the puck up and over Anderson for his second of the game and eighth of the season.
From that point forward, however, the Royals played a sound defensive-styled third period; and despite getting outshot 10-4 in the final frame, held on to the one-goal lead until the final buzzer—thanks to the solid performance of Anderson (who recorded his sixth straight win) and the support of the large Monday afternoon crowd, who cheered the Royals sixth straight home win (11-8-0-0).
The Royals return to action on Friday (January 24 @ 7:30 pm) when the Royals kick off a six-game eleven day road trip against the Kalamazoo Wings at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Courtesy of the Reading Royals.