The Reading Royals battled it out with the Brampton Beast (ECHL affiliate of the Montreal Candiens) in their Kelly Cup Playoffs division semifinals match-up last week, looking for victory in Brampton, and to bring the series back home to Reading to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
After going down 2-1 in the first three games in the series, the Royals knew they had a tough task ahead of them if they were going to advance beyond the division semifinals this season. They faced two more games in Brampton, and needed to at least win one if they were going to swing the series back to Reading.
The first obstacle of that task, winning at least a game in Brampton, was no trouble for the Royals, but the second obstacle of winning both remaining games in Brampton proved to be tough, but at least the Royals brought the series back to Reading, and knew that they would have home ice advantage if they were able to win game six and force a game seven, which would also take place in Reading.
Unfortunately, that was not to be, as the Beast got the best of the Royals, and a late surge propelled them to a game six victory, and a trip to the second round of the playoffs, while the Royals’ season ended a bit earlier than we hoped.
Let’s take a look at last week’s action:
Date: Thursday, April 20, 2017
Score: Royals 3 | Beast 2
Brampton, ON: The Royals entered game four, the second of three in a row in Brampton, knowing that they needed a win last Thursday, and played their way to a very important 3-2 win, that guaranteed at least one more game in Reading in this series.
After having a tough time putting the puck in the back of the net through the first three games (2 goals, 1 goal, and 1 goal), it was a relief for the Royals to put three past Zach Fucale of the Beast.
Olivier Labelle scored a goal and added an assist, to lead the way for the Royals, and Robbie Czarnik and Ryan Penny scored goals, as well.
The Royals were out-shot 38-30 in the game, but a converted power play late in the game proved to be the difference.
Mark Dekanich stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced in the win.
Game highlights via the Brampton Beast:
Date: Saturday, April 22, 2017
Score: Royals 1 | Beast 2 (2OT)
Brampton, ON: The Royals entered game five knowing that this game could very well decide the series. Another win in Brampton would lean the series heavily in their favor, while a loss would put them in a tough spot, but at least they would have home ice for the remainder of the series.
Unfortunately, a hard fought game did not reward the Royals with a victory, as the game turned into another goaltending duel ending with a 2-1 loss in double overtime.
Dekanich was a busy man in net, stopping 50 of the 52 shots he faced in this, but his counterpart, Fucale, stopped 43 of the 44 shots the other way.
In just over 95 minutes of gameplay, the Royals were only able to get on the board once, and that was on a Labelle goal midway through the third period (about two minutes after the Beast scored the first goal of the entire game).
The game also featured great penalty killing on both sides, as the Royals’ penalty killers stopped all 9 Beast power play attempts, including a 5-on-3 in double OT, and the Beast penalty killers stopped each of the Royals’ 5 power play attempts.
The Beast won the game with just under five minutes remaining in the second overtime on a rebound goal by Brandon MacLean of the Beast. He scored both goals for them in this one.
Game highlights via the Brampton Beast:
Date: Monday, April 24, 2017
Score: Beast 3 | Royals 1
Reading, PA: The Royals returned home to Reading, facing elimination, for a game six showdown last night against the Beast, and unfortunately a late surge for the Beast ended the Royals’ season to the tune of a 3-1 loss.
Justin Crandall scored late in the first period to give the Royals a 1-0 lead that would hold until nearly midway through the third period, when the Beast were finally able to get the puck past Dekanich. They scored two even strength goals and one empty-netter in the final 12 minutes of the game to seal the Royals’ fate.
Dekanich turned in yet another solid performance in net, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced, but his counterpart, Fucale, is an elite goaltender at the ECHL level, and he was the main reason that the Royals lost game 6, and the series as a whole.
The Royals put 41 shots on net, but were only able to convert once.
Game highlights via the Reading Royals:
- Chris McCarthy (0 G, 5 A for 5 points in 6 games)
- Olivier Labelle (2 G, 2 A for 4 points in 6 games)
- Ryan Penny (2 G, 1 A for 3 points in 6 games) / Matt Willows (1 G, 2 A for 3 points in 6 games)
After showing promising signs late in the season, the Royals fought hard, and were really only a couple of bounces away from the series turning out with completely different results, but ultimately it came down to a goaltending battle between Dekanich and Fucale, but the Beast were able to put the puck in the net a couple more times than the Royals were able to.
Dekanich ended the season on a very high note for the Royals, which carried over into the playoffs as well. He went 2-2-2 in this series, with a GAA of 1.62, and a save percentage of 95.4%, which is much higher than his averages during the season, so he really stepped up to the plate when it mattered.
The Royals were missing some key pieces due to players like Martin Ouellette, Steven Swavely, Reece Willcox, and Tyrell Goulbourne being with the Phantoms to fill gaps in their lineup, who could have really made a difference in this playoff series. Willcox did play in game six, but the other three players did not appear for the Royals in the playoffs.
The Royals have a lot of questions going into the offseason, as there were many personnel movements throughout their organization late in the season, and they endured a season of wildly inconsistent performances by the team itself, as well, with both lengthy winning streaks, as well as lengthy losing streaks.
Let’s hope that the organization, as well as the affiliation with the Flyers, strengthens heading into next season for a chance at a more successful run in the playoffs this time next year.
In the meantime, we will keep you posted with any Royals updates over the summer, as they occur.Follow @Brian_Sloane