Hoping to try and avoid a three-game losing slump, the Reading Royals headed into Friday night’s game against the goal-scoring juggernaut Kalamazoo Wings. It was the first time the two teams had met since the Wings swept the Royals in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
The Wings, who led the East with 136 goals and the first in the league on the power play, were stopped by the Royals. Reading allowed only one goal to the Wings and stopped them on both power play opportunities in the game. The Royals secured another big home win against a tough opponent, this time coming away with a 4-1 victory as they officially switched to their black jerseys.
“I thought we were terrible in the first period,” head coach Larry Courville said. “Needless to say, I lost my mind after the first period because I didn’t like the way we responded. I thought we had a great second period. Third period, we knew they were going to press. I didn’t think we matched their intensity, but in the end we got the win and our goalie played exceptional.”
New goaltender Paul Dainton received his second start in net and once again faced a high amount of shots.
“I think any goalie will tell you that you want to have more shots than less,” Dainton said. “If you’re sitting in the game where you’re only having 13 or 14 shots a game, there might be four or five minutes before you get a shot and there’s a huge scoring opportunity and you might not mentally be in it even though you’re rested.”
Dainton was up to the task as he made 40 saves en route to his first win as a Royal and was named the game’s first star.
“Tonight, he won us the game,” Courville said. “He was our best player on the ice. Some nights you want the goaltender to be the best player on the ice, but it can’t happen continuously like this.”
The Wings were the top team in the North Division and they showed why right from the drop of the puck. Harry Young took a shot from the right point 5:11 into the opening period. The puck hit Dainton in the shoulder and bounced over and into the net for a 1-0 Wings lead.
The Royals were able to escape the first period only down by one despite their uninspired play and the fact they were out-shot 15-4. They began to show some life in the final minute and were able to draw a penalty as time expired.
The Royals continued their struggles with the extra man at the start of the second. But their third power play finally turned the tide. With two seconds remaining on the power play, bodies crowded the net in front of Wings goaltender Maxime Clermont. A third rebound given up was just what the Royals needed as Ryan Cruthers jumped on the loose puck and tied the game at 4:14.
Another power play in the period provided the Royals with the chance to take advantage of the Wings’ poor penalty kill. It only took 12 seconds into the power play for them to strike. Tyler Brenner skated down below the goal line and fired a shot that somehow snuck under Clermont for a 2-1 Royals lead with 3:49 left in the second.
The Wings weren’t going to go away easily. They pressed in the third period and kept pressure in the Royals end. In the first nine minutes, the Wings poured it on and out-shot the Royals 10-1. Dainton, however, was up to the task and made several spectacular saves to preserve the lead.
The Royals, who had a 2-2-0-2 record at home when they had a lead in the third period, were determined to make sure another collapse wouldn’t happen, and they got the goal they were looking for. John Scrymgeour crashed the net and found a loose rebound and backhanded it in for his second goal in two games at 9:56.
The Wings continued to buzz, but Yannick Tifu sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 26.2 seconds left in the game.
“I really don’t know what’s next,” Scrymgeour said. “All I know is that - it’s a typical answer - but we are working at it. We are trying hard, and like tonight’s game, we might have to go through a couple bounces in the first, but by the third, hopefully we’re there.”
In his first two starts as a Royal, Dainton has faced a total of 97 shots. He has a 2.02 GAA and .959 SP in Reading.
The Royals have moved back to a .500 record with the win (16-16-3-3).
SCRYMGEOUR’S RETURN TO THE ROYALS
Scrymgeour suffered an injury in a game against the Wheeling Nailers on Dec. 9 that caused him to miss over a month.
“I don’t want to go too in-depth with it, but I basically inflicted it upon myself,” he said. “It was a lower-back injury and it was just to do with muscles and discs. To be honest with you, it’s still there every once in a while, but it’s something I’ll have to work through.”
Scrymgeour admitted the injury worried him and the doctors.
“It was just immediate pain in my lower back and then my legs gave out and I couldn’t put any pressure on my legs, which caused pressure on my lower back and something as simple as standing or sitting was pretty taxing,” he said.
Scrymgeour worked with the Royals staff every day to get his strength back and he made his return to the lineup on Jan. 14 after being sidelined for over a month. His presence has been immediately felt on the team as he has scored a goal in each of his two games back.
“It’s been a little bit rough, but the simple answer is it’s great to be back,” he said.
Courville recognizes the effort Scrymgeour puts in at practice and in games.
“He’s always been a dark horse since last year coming in on a trial only and worked extremely hard and did a lot of little things we didn’t have in our locker room and we still don’t have it this year,” Courville said. “He’s a gritty player that does a lot of little things. [He] competes. He doesn’t get rewarded on the score sheet very often, but he does a lot of little things that help reward those guys.”