Another home game, another loss for the Reading Royals as their dropped their 10th in regulation and 13th overall in front of their fans at the Sovereign Center with a 4-3 loss to the South Carolina Stringrays in Monday’s matinee game. The Royals had a lead three separate times, but failed to hold onto it each time.
Karel St. Laurent received the start in net for the second time in three games. He had another solid performance, but unfortunately suffered his eighth loss of the season.
“I thought we worked hard today, but didn’t work smart,” head coach Larry Courville said. “And then in the D zone, especially on the fourth goal, we had puck possession twice and failed to get it out, and then we scrambled defensively.”
For the sixth time this season, the Royals were unable to secure a win after taking a lead into the third period.
“Right now it kind of feels like we’re finding ways to lose,” forward Kenny Ryan said. “We’re going into third periods winning and we’re not doing the right things at the end of the game and the details to be successful.”
The Royals opened the scoring almost halfway into the first period. Casey Haines reached a loose puck along the boards and sent the pass to Dennis McCauley left untouched in the slot. After some crafty dekes, he beat Stingrays goaltender Philipp Grubauer for a 1-0 lead 9:19 in.
“Casey made a great play,” McCauley said. “Everyone went to him and he found me coming through the slot and the goalie came out a little bit, so it was nice to have a goal like that. It has been a while.”
Thirty seconds later, however, Haines was sent to the box for holding and it gave the Stingrays the chance to find some life. Mike Hamilton crashed the front of the net and tied the game 1:50 after McCauley’s tally.
The Royals weren’t finished as 1:40 later, they took the lead back. A tic-tac-toe play between McCauley and Yannick Tifu ended with Tifu’s ninth of the year and sixth as a Royal.
The Royals survived a late penalty to McCauley and took a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
Eight seconds after the Royals killed their third consecutive penalty of the game, the Stingrays once again tied it up. Brett Flemming took a shot from the right point through traffic and beat St. Laurent at 6:32 of the second.
The Royals once again took the lead back at 13:45. Ryan Button rushed up the ice and sent a diagonal pass toward a streaking Ryan. Ryan redirected the puck in for his second goal in five games and a 3-2 lead for the home team desperately seeking their fifth win in front of their fans.
Not even a minute later, the Royals were given a prime opportunity to take a hold of the game when Maxime Lacroix caught Tifu’s face with his stick. Lacroix was assessed a double-minor as Tifu had to head down the tunnel to get patched up.
But for a fourth straight game, the Royals were unable to convert on the power play and lost the chance to build on the lead, which would end up costing them.
Trailing by one, the Stingrays were able to fight back. Reading blew the lead for the third time in the game just 36 seconds into the last period. Zach Tarkir’s shot from the left point somehow found its way behind St. Laurent to tie the game and take the energy out of the home team.
With just over five minutes left to play, the Stingrays took their first lead of the game, and what proved to be the last goal of the game. Flemming sent a shot from the point, but Pierre-Luc O’Brien, standing in the left circle, made a perfect redirect for his 17th of the season.
“We needed these two points,” Courville said. “I’m kind of banging my head against the wall when you’re up 3-2. I’ve said it over and over again. It’s the little things that have to better and the sense of urgency and the commitment of the defense has to be much better.”