Three things stuck out about this game, and they clearly fit into...
Two-sided Teddy Bear Toss: Galiev Shines, Anderson Absent
In a night that should’ve been about teddy bears and a speedy Russian, goaltending became the question.
There was little spectacular about minor league phenomenon Philipp Grubauer’s play in the 5-3 win over the Orlando Solar Bears. The person of interest was on the bench. Instead of usual backup Brandon Anderson, Sergey Kostenko waited in the wings. Having not practiced since last season, the decision by coach Larry Courville was not unnoticed.
Courville said he plans to put Kostenko on the ice in practice next week due to the unknown duration of the British Columbia native’s absence. “Anderson had to go home for some family responsibilities. Not sure when he’ll be back or if he will be back,” Courville told reporters after the game.
Despite the uncertainty, the night of the teddy bear toss was a success for the Royals. It would not be easy however. Until the very last moments of the game, the Solar Bears seemed able to down the high-flying team.
The Royals are undefeated in regulation (11-0-0-1) when scoring first and 17-2 since November. When allowing the first goal, they had only six wins. So when C.J. Severyn gave the Solar Bears the first goal of game nine minutes into the first period, the crowd could expect a close game.
Stanislav Galiev then set out to become the hero of the night, notching the first goal of his hat trick on the power play from a cross-ice feed from Barry Almeida. As his teammates gathered around the enthusiastic Russian, teddy bears rained onto the ice with “Gangnam Style” blasting over the speakers.
Galiev wasted no time, scoring again little more than a minute later from the opposite faceoff circle.
“I got confidence now. I trust the coach, he give me a lot of time on ice and it works for me,” said the 20-year old.
Orlando refused to relent, tying the game a minute later and getting a four-minute power play after Almeida was called for boarding and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The game would continue with back-to-back goals in the second with captain Yannick Tifu and Severyn scoring 17 seconds apart.
But it was Galiev again on the power play who sealed the win in Reading.
“It’s pretty funny though when he scored his second, I said, ‘Let’s get that teddy bear and hat trick in the same night. It’d be great,’” said Tifu, who is now on a four-game goal streak. “He played so well lately…It’s fun for him.”
Ian O’Connor scored the empy netter to make it 5-3.
Despite or because of the close score, the game remained relatively calm with only Severyn and Brett Flemming serving roughing minors. Kirk MacDonald didn’t play the final minutes of the second period after going down behind Orlando’s net, but returned in the third. And though Sean Lorenz took a nasty high hit from Danick Paquette, he also came back to play.
The Royals will not face the Solar Bears again until February when they play a three-game series.