Lars Eller always looks like he's smelling something fowl.
Resilient Royals: Rookie Gets Double Overtime Win After Marathon Week
The team smothers rookie defenseman Bobby Shea after his overtime winner. Photo by Taylor Lewis
“It’s nothing new. But it takes a toll on you to the point where, that’s why you go to bed early, that’s why you take your hydration. So that you’re ready for…[playing] past 60 minutes.” – forward Evan Barlow
While the NHL playoffs have just begun, the ECHL’s Reading Royals are just one round away from the Kelly Cup Finals.
Friday night, they overcame the second-seeded Cincinnati Cyclones with a 5-4 double OT win in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Royals trailed three times, evening the score 4-4 late in the third. In the end, it was rookie defenseman Bobby Shea with the game winner, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead in the series.
“It’s cool to come here and win games,” said the recent Bowling Green graduate, “It feels great, it’s always fun when you win.”
Following a full seven-game stretch in the semifinals against the Florida Everblades, the Royals faced hard competition again as Cincinnati forced them into double overtime.
“We’re ready for things like that to happen,” said defenseman Dominic Jalbert of the team’s resiliency in both the previous series and Friday’s match.
The game had its range of heroes in regulation. Barlow had two goals, the first to tie the game at the end of the first period. After an elbow from forward Michael Pelech in the third period, Barlow went to the dressing room. A few minutes later, he was feeling “good enough” and was back on the ice for a power play.
Even with his goals, Cincinnati would reclaim the lead with five minutes left in the period.
“I felt like were playing catch-up the whole night. They had the answer for every time we scored,” said Barlow, who assisted on the game-winning goal.
After a slow start, the third period featured more than one hard hit. The Cyclones six-foot-one defenseman Josh McFadden caught five-foot-nine T.J. Syner on the boards as the forward tried to break out the puck while killing a penalty. McFadden had another hit on Barry Almeida that sent him in a daze to the bench.
But the biggest show of force was a fight between Shea and defenseman David MacDonald. The two dropped the gloves after Barlow’s second goal.
Later, it was Brett Flemming who went after Pelech for the Barlow hit.
Despite the physicality of the final period of regulation, the only penalty in extra time was a delay of game. The Royals wouldn’t score, but in the ensuing minutes, they played with more energy than in the preceding 90 minutes.
The game-tying goal to force overtime was in itself a fluke as Jalbert’s seemingly harmless dump-in bounced off a skate and into the net. With Cincinnati goaltender Michael Houser already heading to the boards to play it, the Royals and Cyclones were even at 4-4.
“It wasn’t my best shift. So I was just happy because I know if I came back to the bench and we didn’t score I would’ve felt bad,” recalled Jalbert of the shaky play he had leading up to the goal.
After a string of high-energy days—Game 6 and 7 were on Tuesday and Wednesday—the Royals will face the Cyclones on Sunday for Game 2.
Said Courville, “It’s really about telling the guys to drink a lot of water and eat well, get your rest. Be ready for the games.”