It is no question that all hockey players have a different and unique road to the NHL. For players like Alex Ovechkin, it’s playing hockey in a Russian league until getting drafted first overall by the Washington Capitals. For other hockey icons like Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Sharp, getting to the NHL meant spending two seasons riding the bus in the American Hockey League.
He won the 2005 Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Him hoisting Calder on that warm June night in Philadelphia turned out to be his last game in the AHL before permanently joining the National Hockey League. A step under the American League is the 20-team ECHL. Although the first two initials in the abbreviation mean “East Coast”, teams in the league range from Estero, Florida across the continent to Anchorage, Alaska.
Friday evening the Reading Royals squared off with the Kalamazoo Wings at the Sovereign Center in an East Coast Hockey League match-up. The Royals stunned the Wings with two goals on the man-advantage in the middle period, securing a 4-1 win on home ice.
When playing against a first place team, there are not many mistakes the under-dog team can afford to make. Out of the starting gate, the under-dog Reading Royals made nothing but mistakes against Kalamazoo. It’s one thing to turn the puck over in the defensive and neutral end under pressure, but it’s a completely different story when the turn overs are not forced.
Five minutes in, the Wings jumped out to a 6-1 shot advantage in a one-ended tilt. Within those opening five minutes, Reading turned the puck over carelessly a half-dozen times leading to the far majority of Kalamazoo’s chances. 2:45 in, Wings’ forward Nick Sirota received a crisp, cross-ice pass through the slot and fired it on net for the games first scoring chance. Paul Dainton, 5-foot-11 netminder denied him on the top of the crease.
Not surprisingly, the chance was generated off a give-away along the far side half-boards after the back-checking forwards couldn’t clear the zone for Reading. Sure enough as the 4,000-plus spectators expected, Kalamazoo would score the opening goal of the game as the Royals failed to make the simple outlet pass out of the defensive zone.
At the 5:11 mark, with heavy traffic in front Harvy Young threw a shot on net from the point past a screened Dainton. Young’s first goal of the season in his 24th game gave the Wings a 1-0 lead to work with. Luckily for Reading it would be the lone tally in the period against the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Shots after 20 minutes were 15-4 in favor of Kalamazoo.
At the 20:00 mark of the opening frame, Eric Kattelus was sent to the box for a late hit as time expired on the period giving Reading their second power-play at the start of the middle period. They were unable to hit pay-dirt, but generated four shots on net doubling their game total in just two minutes.
After killing off the penalty, the Wings went right back to the penalty kill 15 seconds after Kattelus’ minor expired. Taylor Ellington was called for a trip, giving the Royals yet another opportunity to tie the game. With Kalamazoo back on their heals, Reading generated another four shots on net during the man-advantage. The fourth came with two seconds left on the minor assessed to Ellington. However on that shot, the Royals tallied for their first in the evening.
Kenny Ryan blasted a shot from the high-slot that was kicked out by Maxime Clermont, as he came out of his net to challenge. The rebound fortunately went right on to the stick of wide-open Ryan Cruthers who bombed it into the open net. At the 4:14 mark of the stanza, the Wings and Royals hit the reset button and began a brand-new 35 minute game with the scored time at 1-1.
Into the later minutes of the frame, the Royals went back to work on the man-advantage and had come up with a similar result to the previous effort, scoring their second goal of the game on the power-play. Tyler Brenner from a sharp angle stuffed a bank shot through Clermot only 13 seconds after the infraction was issued to Kory Karlander. With all the momentum in hand, Reading carried a 2-1 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
In the second period, Reading outshot Kalamazoo 15-12 with 9 of the shots being via the man-advantage.
In the final 20 minutes, John Scrymgeour added a huge insurance tally for Reading at the 9:56 mark. It lead to Kalamazoo having to their goalie in the dying moments trying to draw even. With Clermont on the bench for the Wings, Yannick Tifu potted his tenth goal of the season into a vacated next to secure a 4-1 win for Reading, pulling their record back to a .500 record on the season.
Paul Dainton stopped 40 of 41 shots and recorded first-star honors in the victory.