The Reading Royals have compiled a winning record against each of their divisional opponents this season – all except for the Trenton Titans, who have won the last three meetings. Saturday night was no different as the Royals were out-played the entire game and lost, 3-2.
It was a disappointing loss to a last place team after gaining a huge victory the night before over the Elmira Jackals.
"I think it's one of those things where we see [the standings] and we want to make sure we jump on them,” captain Ryan Cruthers said. “Those are games we have to win when you're playing a last place team. I don't look at them as a last place team. They're just as good as any other team in the league."
Royals goaltender Paul Dainton, assigned Friday from the Syracuse Crunch to help ease the load from Karel St. Laurent, faced 56 shots in his debut. Surprisingly enough, it was only the second-highest amount of shots allowed this season by the Royals.
Dainton got off to a shaky start, but settled in as the game went along and came up with some huge saves in the third period to give the Royals a chance to fight back, though they could not come up with a tying goal.
"It's his first game,” Cruthers said of Dainton’s performance. “It's a new team. He doesn't really know our system, but I thought he played really well. He faced almost 60 shots. I was impressed."
The Royals opened the scoring at 9:32 of the first period. Tyler Brenner’s attempted pass bounced off a Titan defender’s stick, but landed in front of John Scrymgeour, activated off IR that day, and caught goaltender Brad Phillips off guard with his shot.
A slashing minor to Louis Liotti late in the period set up the equalizer for the Titans. Rob Bordson skated almost the length of the ice and beat Dainton on his left side with 1:53 left in the first.
Just 50 seconds into the third, the Royals regained the lead with a 2-on-1 from Everett Sheen and Derrick LaPoint. Sheen fired from the right circle to make it a 2-1 game.
It was a short-lived lead as the Titans came right back 48 seconds later. Ryan Hayes lured Dainton out to the right side of the net and seemingly froze him. Hayes took advantage and passed the puck to Bordson, who scored his second of the night into an empty net.
The Titans continued to control the play in the final period, peppering Dainton with 21 shots.
Though his performance grew as the game went on, a rebound given up by Dainton off a shot from Dustin Cameron’s shot slid out to Matt Germain. He buried the game winner top shelf for a 3-2 Titans lead at 4:35 of the third.
The Royals couldn’t muster many chances in the remaining 15 minutes as the Titans continued to pour on the pressure and shots, though Dainton was up to the challenge. The Royals ultimately fell to the Titans, 3-2, and fall back to .500 once again.
"It's frustrating,” Cruthers said. “We had a plan to not lose two games in a row the rest of the year. Now it seems like we're just winning one and then losing one, then winning one instead of trying to win a couple in a row. That's something we definitely have to correct. We have to string a bunch of wins together so we don't have to keep looking at the standings every day and wondering what spot we're in for the playoffs.”