All except for the Americans...
Royals Start Title Defense With a Win
TJ Syner scores the opening goal of the Royals’ season home opener against the Stingrays’ Jeff Jakaitis (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)
After a summer of celebration as the Kelly Cup Champions, the Reading Royals kicked off their title defense by hosting the former-Capitals affiliated (now Bruins-affiliate) South Carolina Stingrays at the newly re-named Santander Arena. The current Caps affiliates continue to lead a charmed life, walking away from tonight’s game with a 3-2 skin-of-their-teeth shootout victory.
To start things off on the right foot, they hoisted their 2013 Kelly Cup Champions banner before the game. The ceremony was accompanied by the screams and cheers of the faithful 6079 fans in attendance. The team also honoured the accomplishment with special jerseys for the weekend, featuring an image of the Kelly Cup on the backs & “2013 Kelly Cup Champions” printed subtly on the fronts.
The positive trend continued, with sophomore TJ Syner snagging the team’s first goal of the season just 5:49 into the first period (he had help from the veteran David Marshall and new Royal Dustin Gazley. Wonder of wonders, he even scored on the power play!).
The second period shattered goaltender Riley Gill’s perfect record for the season, however, with two goals scored in 95 seconds early in the second period (Jack Downing and Jordan Owens, respectively, with the second goal occurring on the power play).
Forward Ian O’Connor pushed back in a more physical sense, dropping the gloves with South Carolina rookie Steve Spinell and providing a lesson in ECHL rule changes for the audience at the same time – both players were assessed a two minute minor for “Removing the Helmet” in addition to their Five-for-Fighting.
The third period saw the Royals shake off the doldrums, with Louie Caporusso tying things up with the Royals’ second power play goal of the evening (helped by Caps prospect Stanislav Galiev (now pronounced Galeev, per the Royals PA announcer) and newcomer Ryan Kavanagh (formerly of the German DEL)). Given the Royals’ track record with the man advantage, one can speculate that they’ve used up their quota of power play goals for the next month or so, but time will tell.
That was when history sought to repeat itself, with the game pushing first into OT and then to a shootout. The Stingrays were the only team that the Royals failed to best in regulation at least once during the 2012-13 regular season, and the streak remains intact. The last time these two teams met on Pennsylvania ice, Reading squeaked out a win in the shootout after five rounds on the night before American Thanksgiving.
This time around, the shootout made it past the standard five shots, with powerhouse T.J. Syner notching his second goal of the game and winning it all to close things out in round six (and if you’re interested, Candice Monhollan has a great video of his post-game interview here. Prior to that, the only successful attempts were from Royals’ Captain Yannick Tifu (who also racked up a notable 6 penalty minutes, including the second of a two-for-one penalty situation in OT that left the Royals in a 4-on-2 situation for a solid chunk of OT) and Stingrays Alternate Captain Jordan Owens.
A moment of credit where it’s due, both goaltenders deserve credit for pulling their respective teams out of the fire a few times tonight. While Reading’s Riley Gill may have allowed some juicy rebounds (and two goals on 22 shots), he also held down the fort during a two minute long 4-on-2 situation. South Carolina’s Jeff Jakaitis stopped 26 of 28 shots, balancing sheer luck with technical skill to buy his team the time they needed to get themselves onto the board and find their feet in this first game of the season.
The two teams meet again tomorrow, and then the Stingrays will visit once more at the end of February. For now, both teams start the season off with at least one point.
All three teams in the Capitals family ended the night with a win. The Capitals beat the Blue Jackets 4-1, the Hershey Bears split their weekend in St. Johns (tonight was the 4-0 W, last night was the not-quite-so-fortunate 5-1 loss), and Reading defeated the Stingrays 3-2 in the shootout.