Reading, PA – In yet another example of the team commanding virtually every aspect of the game–except for the scoreboard–the Reading Royals (5 – 8 – 3 = 13; 6th North Division) dropped another one goal nail biter–this one to the Wheeling Nailers, 4-3, extending the Royals' losing streak to four games. Reading seemed to dominate the flow of the game, outshooting the Nailers 52 to 21, but Wheeling goaltender, Andy Franck, was outstanding, making a number of clutch stops and getting help when he needed it from the goal posts and cross bars. On the flip side, it seemed that, on every occasion that the Nailers did get a chance, Wheeling was able to slip one through. Royals' goaltender Ryan Munce (3 – 5 – 3; 15/19 in 41:50) took the loss and was replaced by Yutaka Fukufuji (no decision, 2/2 in 18:10) after Wheeling's fourth goal early in the third period.
In the first period, the Royals fired 18 shots on goal and created numerous scoring opportunities through sustained offensive pressure, but could not solve Franck. The same was not true for Wheeling at the other end of the ice. On their first solid scoring opportunity 10:53 into the period, Wheeling's Jon Foster carried deep into the right circle where he threw a low wrister on net that slipped between Munce's legs for the 1-0 Wheeling lead.
In the second, it was more of the same, i.e. sustained offensive effort and opportunity for the Royals and a goal for the Nailers mid-way into the period. On this one, after a scrum in front of the Royals' net and a foiled clearing attempt by Reading's defense, Wheeling's Ryan Moren ended up with the puck in the mid slot. Moren slipped one through a maze of bodies out front, including Munce who was prone on the ice, and it was 2-0 Wheeling, 10:54 into the period. 1:15 later, the Royals cut the lead in half when Shawn Collymore exploded into the offensive zone on the left wing and charged to the left side of the Wheeling net. Franck rejected Collymore's original attempt in tight, but Collymore had the presence of mind to pull back and find defenseman Jason Becker at the top of the right circle. Becker unleashed a wrist shot that beat Franck high glove side for his fifth of the season.
At the start of the third, the Nailers' created a series of turnovers at the offensive blue line that resulted in Tim Wallace walking in and taking a shot from the mid slot, which Royals' defender Shawn Collymore blocked. The puck rebounded, however, onto the stick of Joe Jensen who was planted low in the right wing corner. Jensen fired a shot to the short side that beat Munce, who was unable to get to his left quickly enough to cover the right pipe, 1:06 into the period. Wheeling took a three goal lead (at 4-1) forty-four seconds later when another failed clear provided Jon Foster with another opportunity to walk into the offensive zone and slip another one through Munce's legs. Yutaka Fukufuji then came on in substitution, and the Royals (as has been the case on numerous occasions this season) turned up the juice down the stretch, ultimately outshooting the Nailers 21-5 in the third. Reading cut the lead in half (again) while on the power play, when John Snowden bagged his second of the season with a hard wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat Franck high blocker side 6:44 into the period. The Royals made it a one goal game with the team's sixth short-handed goal of the season 13:32 into the period. On this one, Jason Becker started the transition rush with a brilliant outlet pass to a hard-charging Chris Bala, who carried with speed down the left wing side. Bala then served a saucer to Malcolm MacMillan who had joined the rush on the right wing side. MacMillan gunned a one-timer from low in the right circle for his third of the season–thus setting the stage for a wild close filled with a flurry of scoring chances for Reading. However, that stage was stolen by Franck, who repeatedly rejected the Royals on the door step time and time again to preserve the victory for the Nailers.
The Royals are back in action at the Sovereign Center on Wednesday night (6:35 pm), when they face the Gwinnett Gladiators for the first time in team history. Royals' game night broadcasts can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1240 am (and on the internet through the Royals' website, www.royalshockey.com
), beginning thirty minutes before the opening faceoff.