ECHL: Did the Royals Just Play Their Worst Game of the Season?

In an ongoing struggle to make their game connect, the Reading Royals fell to the Wheeling Nailers in a crippling 8-3 loss. The game had its high points, but a closer look into the action shows a heartbreaking potential for the rest of the season.

The Royals’ game against Wheeling served as a pivotal moment in the season, and unfortunately for Reading, it was not a good one. With the season in its second half, there’s no time to falter, especially when dealing with a team that could potentially give some free points as they don’t fall in the division. In Wheeling’s defense, they currently stand in fourth in their division, but the Royals have proven this season they can take down much stronger teams like Idaho. That team in Idaho was far different than the team that fell 8-3 against Wheeling, getting only 24 shots on goal across the entirety of the game while Wheeling racked in 50 total shots on goal.

To break down this game, it helps to start with the first period. Much to the Royals dismay, they fell early to the Nailers with Jordan Martel scoring at just 1:41 into the period. The early goal quickly killed the Royals’ momentum and clearly set off the team, especially with the fight at 7:40 between Peter Laviolette and Kenny Johnson. The fight was at least enough to get the crowd back into the game, but that help from the crowd was quickly extinguished when the Royals later went on the power play after a tripping penalty by Isaac Belliveau at 16:48 and didn’t capitalize. It was a reflection of how the season has been thus far with the power play, and even with a heavy fight to bring back some momentum to the play, it wasn’t enough to get the team on the board.

It was the second period that was truly the highlight of the game, with an onslaught of heavy penalties that truly became the tipping point for the game. It only took 56 seconds into the period for the Royals to go down by three with a power play goal scored by Jordan Martel, his second of the game, assisted by David Jankowski and Davis Bunz. But that, of course, was not the only power-play goal that period as David Jankowski scored at 14:04, assisted by Justin Lee and Jordan Martel, bringing the score to 4-0. This was the turning point of the game as the Royals appeared to have had enough, and the game became quite the blood bath just before the end of the period. The penalties became quite extensive, and the breakdown of them went as followed, all happening in the last minute of the period:

Lukas Svejkovsky with a Double Minor for Roughing at 19:16

Mason Millman with a Double Minor for Roughing at 19:16

Sebastian Dirven with a Fighting Major at 19:47

Peter Laviolette with a Charging Major at 19:47

Matthew Quercia with a Fighting Major and a Game Misconduct for a Secondary Altercation at 19:47

Brayden Guy with a Fighting Major and a Game Misconduct for a Secondary Altercation at 19:47

Devon Paliani with a Fighting Major at 19:47

This onslaught of penalties was just an outright loss of control of the game that, of course, is rather common between Reading and Wheeling, but this was downright chaotic. At this point in the season, uncontrolled chaos isn’t going to get the points together to move up in the division to have a chance at playoffs, especially since Wheeling is one of those teams that again can get the Royals free points since they don’t reside in the division. Especially with this game, it’s been proven that when the Royals take penalties, it’s inevitable for goals to be scored against them, so why continue altercations if it’s a known weakness? Another question to add to the many that has been rising rather early on in the season.

Moving into the third period, the chaos seemed to die down significantly, and the Royals finally started to take advantage of the chaos from the end of the second period and scored two goals on the Fighting Major one at 1:49 by Yvan Mongo, assisted by Matt Brown and Adam Brubacher and another at 3:18 by Ryan Chyzowski, assisted by Jake Bricknell and Tag Bertuzzi. The penalties died down with only one that came from Tyson Fawcett at 11:07 for tripping but again, it proved as a weakness to the Royals as Isaac Belliveau took advantage and scored at 12:37, assisted by Lukas Svejkovsky and Cédric Desruisseaux. Just two minutes before, at 10:13, Belliveau had scored with another assist by Skejkovsky, making fans start to head home before the period was even half over. Paliani’s goal just wasn’t enough to bring the team back as Wheeling went on to score two more goals to extend the lead further, one at 15:17 by Sebastian Dirven, assisted by David Jankowski and Matt Koopman, and the other at 18:42 with Jordan Martel scoring his hat-trick goal, assisted by Tanner Laderoute and Issace Belliveau.

This game was truly one of the hardest to watch this season, as it felt like a complete collapse of everything that was starting to look up for the team. There were many problems highlighted here that are terrifying to consider moving forward, especially this far into the season. The lack of shots on goal, taking seemingly wasteful penalties, not capitalizing on the power play, and weak goaltending are some of this team’s most prominent concerns that this game alone brought much attention to. The problem is, the Royals face Wheeling again to end their three-game series, and it’s startling to think what might come to light in their next meeting. They’ve proven themselves to be a hot-headed bunch when the game becomes one-sided, so is this just a fluky game that can be kept in the past and forgotten about, or is this what the rest of the season holds with the chances of getting a spot in the playoffs only becoming slimmer and slimmer?

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