If you didn’t know how to say his name before, you know now after Reading Royals goaltender Mark Owuya put on a spectacular performance as he set a team record with his 55-save shutout of the Wheeling Nailers as the Royals hold on to eighth place with the 3-0 win.
“I haven’t seen a performance like that at our level or any level for a long time,” head coach Larry Courville said. “I can’t remember the last time. He was unbelievable. It didn’t look like he was even phased.”
Owuya, in his 13th consecutive start, posted his second shutout in three games and improved his record to 9-4 since returning from the Toronto Marlies with a 2.48 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
“He’s been playing absolutely incredible,” forward Ethan Cox said. “We have breakdowns and we obviously have to limit those as much as we can, but to know that he will bail you out more often than not is extremely comforting. He’s that type of goalie. He’s that skilled and he can do this every night.”
Never before has a Royals goaltender made so many saves en route to a shutout, and in such spectacular fashion as several were highlight-reel worthy. It won’t be something soon forgotten by the fans who witnessed it and his teammates who were a part of it.
“That’s phenomenal,” Cox said about Owuya’s 55 saves. “For anyone to make that many saves [is] really unbelievable. They weren’t just shots from the point or outside chances. There were a lot of breakdowns in front, shots in really close. He was unreal tonight.”
The game started off as an evenly matched battle between the Royals and Nailers and also in goal between Owuya and Patrick Killeen. Neither team managed over three shots through the first 15 minutes, but after that is when things changed.
The Nailers turned on the pressure and in the last five minutes, out-shot the Royals 9-0, but Owuya held tight and kept it scoreless after one.
Though they were on the heels through the second, the Royals were the ones to finally break the scoreless tie on the power play at 7:51. Casey Haines, with a terrific effort, pushed the puck behind the net while on his stomach to Yannick Riendeau, who in turned sent it up to an open Denny Urban in the slot to make it 1-0 Royals.
It would prove to not only be the game winner, but the only goal until a play-gone-wrong for the Nailers with 1:20 left in the game.
With the Nailers pressing hard and throwing shot after shot at Owuya, head coach Clark Donatelli signaled to pull Killeen for the extra attacker, but as he was coming out of the net, the Royals were able to gain control of the puck in the neutral zone and skate it back in. Killeen, seemingly trying to get back to the net, fell flat onto his stomach in the center of the right circle and left a wide-open net for Yannick Tifu to bury his 22nd of the year and to give the Royals a comforting 2-0 lead.
Riendeau added one more for good measure with 1.3 seconds left in the game when Killeen was pulled again – and this time made it to the bench.
The win keeps the Royals very much alive and clinging to the final playoff spot in the east and has also tied them in points with seventh-place South Carolina and pulls them within two points of the slumping Nailers.
“Each game is s new day and a new chapter,” Cox said. “We try not to think about what’s happened in the past. We put ourselves in a position where we had to battle and right now things are going our way and our work ethic, for the most part, is where it needs to be. It’s nice to be on a roll, especially going into the playoffs.”
Following the game, the Marlies recalled Owuya. Courville said he has brought in University of North Dakota goaltender Brad Eidsness. He will see how Eidsness is in practice and make the call later on whether he or Karel St. Laurent will receive the important start in Elmira Friday.