Raconteur Royale: 2016-17 Reading Royals Season Ending Release and Summary

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SIXTEEN FOR SIXTEEN – IN SHORT
1) Only Three ECHL Teams Have Been Playing Continuously in Same City Longer than Reading
2) Royals Notch Forty (or More) Regular Season Wins for the Seventh Time in Sixteen Year History of Team
3) Fifth Time in Last Seven Years for Reading to Win Twenty at Home and Twenty on the Road
4) Royals Stretch Longest Streak in ECHL for Twenty or More Road Wins to Seven Straight
5) Twelfth Season—Last Eight Consecutively—to Qualify for Playoffs
6) Royals Go 4-1-0-1 in First Trip West of Mississippi River Since 2013 Championship
7) Team Bounces Back from Seven Game Winless Streak with Eight Game Win Steak
8) Royals Go 25-9-0-1 in Thirty-Five Game Stretch in Middle of the Season
9) Penalty Kill Makes Phoenix-Like Rise from the Ashes of Last in the League to One of Team’s Strengths
10) Reading Finally Wins a Home Game in Overtime—But During Regular Season Only, Not in Playoffs… 11) Royals Claim 600th Regular Season Win in Team History
12) Four Guys Score Over Twenty – Four More Just a Bit Shy – Four Guys Go ‘Point-a-Game’
13) Olivier Labelle Stretches Several of His Team Records and Sets a Few More in Fifth Stint with Reading
14) Reading Native and Rookie Steven Swavely Elevates Game to Hometown Hero Status
15) Larry Courville Concludes Nine Year Stint in Reading with the Highest Win % of Any ECHL Coach with 600 Games
16) Reading Increases Attendance and Continues Outstanding History of Community Charitable Efforts
Season Summary Notes – 2016-17

 2016-17 marked the sixteenth season of “Hometown Hockey” in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Royals, who joined the ECHL in 2001-02, are one of only four teams in the league who have played in the same city continuously in this league for as many as sixteen straight seasons.  Only the South Carolina Stingrays (1993-94), the Wheeling Nailers (1996-97), and Florida Everblades (1998-99) have played continuously in the ECHL in the same city longer than the Royals.  The Cincinnati Cyclones began playing in Cincinnati in the 2001-02 season, but did not compete during the 2004-06 seasons; and the Toledo Walleye, who were previously known as the “Storm,” started playing in Toledo in the 1991-92 season, but did not play from 2007-09 when the team went dormant for two seasons and came back as the “Walleye” in a new building.

 Over the past sixteen years, the Royals have compiled an overall record of 606-435-48-63 in 1152 total regular season games, which translates into a .574 historical win percentage.  This past season, the Royals claimed the organization’s 600th win in team history with a 6-2 victory over the Brampton Beast at Powerade Centre in Brampton, Ontario, on March 25, 2017.  Historically, Reading has gone 322-201-20-33 (.605) on home ice; and 284-234-28-30 (.543) on the road.

 The 2016-17 regular season marked the seventh time in the sixteen year history of the team that Reading has won forty-or more games during the regular season (41-25-4-2=88). It was the fifth time in the last seven seasons that Reading won at least forty in the regular season.  The Royals were one of twelve teams in the ECHL this season who won forty or more regular season games.  Twenty of Reading’s regular season wins came at home—and twenty-one came on the road.  This marked the sixth time in team history that the Royals notched (at least) twenty wins at home and (at least) twenty victories on the road. It was the fifth time in the last seven years that Reading has accomplished that feat.  This was the ninth time in team history that Reading has won twenty or more on home ice. The Royals have made playoffs every year in which the team has won twenty (or more) at home.  The 2016-17 regular season marked the eighth time that the Royals won twenty-or-more on the road—and the last seven times consecutively. • The Royals currently hold the longest running streak in the ECHL of consecutive seasons with twenty (or more) road wins. The team closest to the Royals in this regard is the Manchester Monarchs, who are in their second season in Manchester—and a continuation of the Ontario Reign membership—and have won twenty-or-more on the road for the last five seasons.  During the 2016-17 regular season, the Royals compiled a record of 24-13-3-1 in the forty-one games played against teams within the North Division. With respect to the other Divisions, Reading was best against the Central (5-0-0-0) and Mountain (4-1-0-1) and worst against South (8-11-1-0).  Reading’s most prolific success in the regular season came against the Elmira Jackals (9-1-0-0) and Adirondack Thunder (7-2-1-1). The Royals also won six against the Norfolk Admirals (6-4-1-0). • The Royals were “perfect” against five teams: Indy (2-0-0-0), Toledo (2-0-0-0), Rapid City (2-0-0-0), Fort Wayne (10-0-0), and Colorado (1-0-0-0).  Reading had the team’s most difficulties against the Manchester Monarchs (2-7-1-0) and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (0-4-0-0). The Royals also failed to beat South Carolina (0-1-0-0) and Atlanta (0-1-0-0).  The Royals had a winning record in each of the seven months of the regular season. The best months of the season for Reading were December (8-3-0-0) and January (7-3-0-1); and the team suffered its most difficult phases in November (7-6-1-0) and then again in February (7-6-0-0) and March (5-4-3-0).

 The Royals’ 2016-17 regular season—statistically and performance-wise—can be broken into four principal phases: (i) the start (the first sixteen games); (ii) the surge (35 games from November 25 through February 19); (iii) the slip (17 games from February 22 through April 1); and (iv) the slam (final four games of the regular season).  After kicking off the 2016-17 regular season with three games against teams from the North, the Royals traveled west of the Mississippi River for the first time since the 2013 Kelly Cup Championship series against the Stockton Thunder.
 This was the first time in the regular season that Reading traveled west of the Mississippi since January of 2009, when the team went on a four game trip against the Utah Grizzlies and Idaho Steelheads. • It was directly at the beginning of that trip (on January 6, 2009) that Coach Larry Courville took over as the (at that time) interim head coach of the Royals. The ‘interim’ tag was removed from Coach Courville’s title after the conclusion of that season.  In this season’s western jaunt, the Royals compiled a record of 4-1-0-1 in the six games played west of the Mississippi.  However, after returning east of the Mississippi, Reading ran out of road gas and went into a decided tail spin, suffering through a season long six game losing streak (and seven game winless streak, 0-6-1-0) beginning with a 7-4 loss in Cincinnati on November 9 and concluding with a 4-3 overtime loss in Manchester on November 19.  During this opening sixteen game stretch, the Royals compiled a somewhat muddy record of 6-8-1-1, placing the team in fifth place in the North Division. • An outstanding feature of the sputter that the Royals experienced in the first sixteen games of the season was the performance (or lack thereof) of the penalty kill, which coughed up nineteen power play goals in sixty-two chances for the opposition on the power play for a league-worst 69.4% kill ratio. • The other numbers in the opening phase of the season weren’t great, either, as the Royals only scored 52 goals in the first 16 games (3.25 goals / game), while giving up 61 against (3.81 goals / game) for a less-than-stellar minus-9 (-9) goal differential.

 After a six day break in late November, however, the Royals’ refueled and returned with a vengeance, running off seasonlong eight game win streak (11/25 – 12/10/16), which evolved into a thirty-five game tear from late November through midFebruary, during which Reading compiled a record of 25-9-0-1 and jumped from fifth place in the North to second.  During this somewhat remarkable thirty-five game run, Reading put together some rather gaudy numbers, scoring 138 total goals (3.94 goals / game) and only allowing 84 against (for a 2.40 team goals against average), which translated into an eye-popping plus-54 (+54) goal differential.  And, perhaps most notably (and maybe not so coincidentally), the penalty kill—which had been admittedly horrendous during the first sixteen games—became one of the most effective elements of the team’s game, killing 109 of the 119 power plays awarded to the opposition for a 91.6% kill ratio.

 Unfortunately, the Royals fortunes took a decided downturn during a seventeen game stretch beginning with a 5-3 loss to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on February 22, 2017 and continuing through a 5-2 loss to the Brampton Beast on April 1, which was the sixty-eighth game of the regular season.  The outstanding feature of this phase of the season, during which Reading went 6-8-3-0 and fell to fourth place in the North, was an extended struggle to find the back of the net. Even though the team was generating more shots on goal than at any time of the season, the Royals scoring went dry. • In fact, in this seventeen game stretch, Reading only scored a total of forty-six goals for a rather paltry 2.70 goals per game average, while giving up sixty against (3.53 team GAA). • The offensive woes for the Royals in this phase of the season were reflected most significantly in the steep slip of the power play, which generated only four goals in fifty-seven chances during this time period for a rather dismal 7.0% scoring ratio. • And, as noted, the goals per game dipped despite the fact that Reading pounded the pressure on the opposition’s goaltending, which was most dramatically reflected in a precipitous drop in the team’s shooting percentage, which through fifty-one games stood at a rather lofty 11.5%; but over the span of this late season seventeen game swoon, dipped to just over 7.0% (46 goals on 629 shots = 7.3%).

 Fortunately for Reading, the team caught the free-fall in the final four games of the year, which began with a 5-3 comefrom-behind win over the Wheeling Nailers at WesBanco Arena (where Reading’s 2o16 playoff campaign had come to an ignominious conclusion in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals) on April 1, 2017, which not only served to clinch a playoff spot for Reading, but also served to knock out the Nailers from playoff contention.  From there, the Royals closed the regular season with three more wins—all over the Norfolk Admirals, which included a 6-4 win over the Admirals in the final home game of the regular season (to notch the team’s twentieth win of the year on home ice)—and a dramatic 4-3 overtime win in Norfolk on April 7, in which hometown hero rookie Steven Swavely bagged his second OT GWG of the year (and simultaneously notched the twentieth road win of the year for Reading).

 Looking at the regular season as a whole, the overall numbers for the Royals in the 2016-17 regular season were, for the most part, not record setting on either end of the spectrum—good or bad—although the numbers for the most part fell on the positive side of the historical ledger when compared with the prior fifteen seasons of Royals hockey.  The goals per game average (3.54), which was tenth best in the league, was fourth best in team history—with the 3.63 goals per game notched in 2002-03 leading the way in that category.  The team goals against average (3.01), which was eighth best in the league, was the team’s worst in the last five seasons and was ninth all time. (2004-05 established the gold standard in this category with a 2.24 team GAA).  The 34.17 shots generated per game were second best all-time for Reading behind only the 2003-04 team, which generated 34.19 shots per game.  The 32.29 shots allowed per game was the worst that the team has done in that category over the past five seasons and was ninth in team history in that category—a relatively substantial distance behind the 26.89 shots per game allowed by the 2012-13 championship team.  The power play, which scored at a 17.8% ratio over the season (44 – 247)—eleventh best in the league this year, places the 2016-17 tenth in the sixteen year history of the team; not really all that close to the 21.2% production on the PP claimed by the 2002-03 and 2005-o6 teams.  The 44 PPGs scored by Reading is actually the fewest ever notched by the team in a single season (the Royals scored 47 in 2013-14); but the 247 chances on the PP are also (by far) the fewest chances the team has ever had. In the 201516 season, Reading had 274 chances with the man advantage.  The penalty kill, which as noted above started the season on a dismal pace—but turned things around rather spectacularly, and ended the year ninth in the league at 83.4% (41 PPGA in 247 chances for the opposition), which was the worst the team has done in that category in five years—and ninth overall in team history. The best the Royals ever done on the PK was 2013-14, when Reading killed at an 86.5% ratio.  The 247 PP opps against this year are the third fewest ever faced by the team. Last year, the opposition was awarded only had 243 chances with the man advantage.  The fourteen short-handed goals scored by the Royals (third best in the league) was the most the team has bagged in the last six seasons—and is tied for fourth most in team history. (The Royals notched a team-record sixteen SHGs n 2004-05).  Reading led the league this year with only five short-handed goals against, which also tied the team record set in the 2015-16 season.  The Royals also led the league this season with the lowest penalty per game average in the ECHL, getting touched up for just 10.69 PIMs per game, which is the lowest in team history.  The 770 total penalty minutes assessed against Reading was also the lowest in team history; and the 803 PIMs assessed against the Royals’ opponents was also the fewest in team history.  The twenty-four total major penalties assessed against Reading this year also established a team record low, eleven fewer than the previous team record established in 2015-16. • Thirteen different skaters for Reading engaged in at least one tilt over the course of the season, led by Tyrell Goulbourne (with five), and Maxim Lamarche and Todd Perry (with three).  During the regular season, Reading played in twelve games that went beyond regulation time for resolution. Overall, the team went 6-6 in those games, compiling a 3-2 record on home ice and 3-4 record on the road.  The Royals played three consecutive games that went beyond regulation time this season (March 24 – 31, 2017), marking only the fourth time in team history that Reading has played in three straight ties in the regular season. • All three of those games were resolved in overtime, with Reading notching one win (March 25 v Adirondack) sandwiched between a pair of OTLs (March 24 v Adirondack; and March 31 v Norfolk). • This marked only the second time in team history that the Royals have played in three straight regular season games resolved in overtime.  Nine of the Royals’ twelve “ties” were resolved in overtime this year with Reading going 5-4 in those games (3-2 on home ice; and 2-2 on the road). • Two different players registered a pair of OT game winners for Reading this year: Jesper Pettersson (January 20 v Adirondack; and February 4 @ Wheeling); and Steven Swavely (March 25 v Adirondack; and April 7 @ Norfolk). ♦ Pettersson and Swavely joined John Morlang, Marc Cavosie, Olivier Labelle, and Yannick Tifu as the only players in Royals’ history to score more than one regular season overtime game winner with the team. ♦ Only Morlang and Tifu had scored “back-to-back” OT GWGs for the Royals in the regular season previously, as both Pettersson and Swavely did this season.
• Ryan Penny scored the other overtime GWG for the Royals (March 4 v Manchester). • Pettersson’s OT game winner at Santander Arena on January 20 against the Adirondack Thunder marked the first overtime win on home ice for the Royals (regular season or playoffs) since Game One of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Stockton Thunder on May 18, 2013. ♦ This was the first regular season overtime win on home ice for the Royals since November 14, 2012, when Ian O’Connor bagged an OT GWG against the Elmira Jackals with Philipp Grubauer in net. • Goaltender Martin Ouellette won three of the overtime games for Reading (3-1), while Mark Dekanich went 2-3 regular season games resolved in OT this season.  Reading only played three games that were resolved in the shootout this season, winning once and losing the other two. • This is the fewest shootout games ever played by the Royals in a single season—and the fewest shootout attempts (10) ever taken by the team. • Historically, Reading has played in 123 games resolved in the skills competition (60-63). • Reading made two of the ten shootout attempts the team took this season, with defenseman Nick Luukko (shooting second) bagging the shootout game winner in the team’s lone SO win on February 14 in Adirondack. ♦ Matt Willows also bagged his lone shootout attempt for Reading his year—in a 3-2 SOL in Adirondack on January 21. ♦ Seven skaters went “0-for” in the skills competition this year: Justin Crandall (0-1), Robbie Czarnik (0-1), Olivier Labelle (0-1), Chris McCarthy (0-2), Jesper Pettersson (0-1), Kevin Sundher (0-1), and Steven Swavely (0-1).. ♦ Goaltender Mark Dekanich went 1-1 in two shootouts this year, making six saves on the seven shootout shots he faced; while Martin Ouellette lost his only shootout this year, giving up a goal on each of the two shots he faced against Adirondack on January 24.

 Thirty-eight skaters and four goaltenders logged ice time for the Royals in the 2016-17 regular season, ranging from three players who dressed for only one game (Radel Fazleev, Steve Lebel, and Kris Newbury) to one who played in all seventy-two during the regular season (and all six in the post-season) Ryan Penny, who became only the eleventh player in team history to log all 72 regular season games for the Royals.  The forty-two total players on this year’s roster is about middle of the road for Royals—somewhere between the thirty-eight (33 skaters and 5 goalies) the team used during the 2002-03 season and the fifty-five (50 skaters and 5 goaltenders) the team went through in the 2008-09 debacle.  The Royals had thirteen different players either assigned from the NHL or loaned from the AHL during the regular season. Ten of those players came through the Philadelphia Flyers / Lehigh Valley Phantoms system: Jesper Pettersson (58 games), Chris McCarthy (43 games), Steven Swavely (40 games), goaltender Mark Dekanich (39 games), Tyrell Goulbourne (36 games), goaltender Martin Ouellette (32 games), Kevin Sundher (32 games), Maxim Lamarche (26 games), Reece Willcox (5 games), and Radel Fazleev (1 game).  Reading had three players loaned from other AHL teams during the regular season: Matt Willows (San Jose Barracuda, 46 games); Michael Boivin (Tucson Roadrunners, 24 games); and goaltender Austin Lotz (Tucson Roadrunners, 2 games).  The Royals acquired four players under ECHL contracts via trade during the regular season: Johnny McInnis (Utah Grizzlies, 31 games); Adam Brace (Florida Everblades, 9 games); Chase Golightly (Florida Everblades / South Carolina Stingrays, 7 games); and Evan Bloodoff (Florida Everblades, 7 games).  Reading signed seven players at the conclusion of their senior collegiate seasons or major junior careers to ECHL Standard Players Contracts or Amateur Tryout Agreements: Michael Huntebrinker (Minnesota State University – Mankato, 8 games); Sean Flanagan (Minnesota State University- Mankato, 4 games); Justin Danforth (Sacred Heart University, 3 games); Matt Salhany (University of Alabama – Huntsville, 3 games); Steve Lebel (University of Moncton, 1 game); Rob Mann (Robert Morris University, 0 games); and Justin Fazio (Sarnia Sting, Ontario Hockey League, back-up goaltender only for four games).  NOTE: The Royals also signed goaltender Evan Cowley, Denver University, to an ATO during playoffs.  The Royals also used two goalies as emergency back-ups this year: Justin Kowalkoski (2 games) and Freddie Cassivi (1 game).

 Four players scored over twenty-goals for Reading this season: Olivier Labelle (27), Ryan Penny (25), Robbie Czarnik (24), and Justin Crandall (22).  The team record for twenty-plus goal scorers in a single season is six set in the 2014-15 season when Labelle, Cam Reid, Sean Wiles, Adam Hughesman, David Marshall and Pat Mullane all bagged over twenty.  The 2016-17 Royals, however, had four other skaters who were right on the precipice of reaching the twenty-goal plateau with the team, including Matt Willows, who actually did score twenty-two—but ‘only’ eighteen of those were scored (in forty-six games) with Reading (and four were notched in seventeen games with the Allen Americans).  The others who were right on the edge of the 20-goal hill were Chris McCarthy (19 in 43 games), Mike Pereira (19 in 49 games); and Steven Swavely (18 goals in 40 games)—and Swavely’s 18 goals came on just 106 shots, which translated into a team-leading 17.0% scoring ratio.  Of note, one of the outstanding features of this year’s team was that Reading had twenty-different players score at least one game winning goal over the course of the regular season, a list led by Olivier Labelle with five, Robbie Czarnik with four, and Ryan Penny, Steven Swavely, and Mike Pereira with three.

 For Olivier Labelle the 2016-17 season marked the fifth time that he has scored over twenty goals with the Royals; and it was his third consecutive season for the Royals that he led the team in goals scored: (i) 2011-12 = 27 goals; (ii) 2014-15 = 30 goals; and (iii) 2016-17 = 27 goals.  Labelle, who entered the 2016-17 season as the all-time leader for regular season goals with the Royals (101), extended that all-time team record to 128 goals in 294 career games with the organization.  Labelle, who led the Royals with five game winning goals over the course of the 2016-17 regular season, is also the alltime leader in Reading hockey history with twenty-three regular season game winners.  Labelle’s ten power play goals in 2016-17 during the regular season also led the team. He is also the all-time team leader in that category with 48 PPGs in his time with the Royals.  Labelle, who took over as the team’s all-time leader in a couple of categories this season (games played = 294; and penalty minutes accrued = 581), remains second on the alltime scoring list for the team with 256 points (128g – 128a), which is just seventeen points behind Ryan Cruthers for the all-time lead in that category.  Labelle’s seventy-eight penalty minutes this season led the Royals, marking the fourth time in Labelle’s five seasons with Reading in which he has led the team in PIMs.

 In his second season with the Royals, Robbie Czarnik led the Royals with thirty-nine assists and sixty-three points (24g39a=63pts) in sixty-six regular season games. Czarnik also led the team with 229 shots on goal.  Czarnik was one of four players who were basically “point-a-game” guys for the Royals this past season, a list which includes Matt Willows (50 points in 46 games), Chris McCarthy (47 points in 43 games), and Steven Swavely (39 points in 40 games).  Czarnik was one of four players who played to plus-20 or better during the regular season—a list that included Justin Crandall (who led all forwards at plus-21), defenseman Nick Luukko (+22), and defenseman Derik Johnson, who led the team by playing to a plus-24 (+24) in seventy games with Reading.  Czarnik, who scored twenty-three goals in fifty-one games for the Royals in the 2015-16 season, is currently eighth on the all-time team career list for goals scored with forty-seven in 117 games with the team (one goal behind Chris Blight for seventh).  Czarnik’s 109 career points with the Royals (47g-62a) places him tenth all-time on the Royals scoring list, two points ahead of Cam Reid and seven points behind Justin Crandall.

 Matt Willows, who was loaned to the Royals from the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on December 6, registered fifty-points (18g-32a) in forty-six games with Reading, placing him second on the team in points per game average (1.0870) to Chris McCarthy (1.0930).  Willows, who was the 2015-16 ECHL Rookie of the Year with the Florida Everblades, was one of two Royals who was honored as the ECHL’s Player of the Week this season . (The other was Justin Crandall). Willows claimed the weekly award during the week of January 30 – February 5, 2017.  Willows was the eighteenth different skater to receive the league’s Player of the Week award for the Royals, a group which is led by Ben Gordon and Stefano Giliati, both of whom won the award twice.

 Justin Crandall also played his second season with the Royals, scoring a career high twenty-two goals and tying his output last season with fifty-eight points (22g-36a) in sixty-six regular season games.  This season, Crandall became the seventeenth different Royal to receive the ECHL’s Player of the Week Award for the week ending on January 1, 2017.  In and around that same time period, Crandall was selected to represent the Royals in the 2017 ECHL All-Star Classic in Glens Falls, New York, where he was also chosen to serve as an All-Star Alternate Captain.  Crandall, who led all forwards in plus-minus at plus-21 (+21), has jumped to ninth all-time on the Royals’ scoring list with 116 points (40g-76a) in 124 career games as a Royal. His 76 assists is eighth best all-time.

 Ryan Penny, who as noted above became on the eleventh player in Royals history to play in all seventy-two regular season games for the team, also became only the fourteenth different player in Royals’ history to score twenty-five or more goals in a single season for the Royals this year.  NOTE: Olivier Labelle became the first player in team history to score 25 or more three times this year; Brad Rooney also accomplished the feat twice, as did Andrew Sarauer.  Penny put together the longest point streak of the season racking up ten points (6g-4a) over an eight game span from February 24 through March 4, 2017.

 Chris McCarthy led the Royals in points per game average with forty-seven points (19g-28a) in forty-three games, which translates into a 1.0930 points per game average.

 Florian Iberer led all defenseman on the team this past season with nine goals and forty-one points in seventy games with the Royals, which placed him tied for twelfth amongst d-men in scoring this past season. Iberer’s ten power play assists was tied with Robbie Czarnik for the team lead in that category. Iberer, who played plus-17 in the regular season, registered 127 shots on goal, which also led all d-men on the team.

 In addition to Labelle, Czarnik and Crandall noted above, the Royals had nine other skaters who returned this past season for a second (or more) go with the team: Derik Johnson, Maxim Lamarche, Nick Luukko, Mike Marcou, Mike Pereira, Todd Perry, Jesper Pettersson, Kevin Sundher, and Ian Watters.  Derik Johnson, who led the team in plus-minus at plus-24 (+24), racked up career numbers (7g-12a=19pts) (68 penalty minutes) and has now played in 120 career regular season games as a Royal (8g-21a=29pts) (96pims) which is tied twentyseventh all-time in career games played with Brock Hooton and Charlie Kronschnabel.  Max Lamarche, playing in his third season with the Royals, has now racked up fifty-six career points with the team (15g41a) in 113 games with the organization, which places him sixth all-time in career scoring by a defenseman behind: (i) Simon Tremblay (86 pts); (ii) Denny Urban (82 pts); (iii) Eric Werner (67 pts); (iv) Mike Marcou (66 pts); and (v) Rob Kwiet (58 pts).  Nick Luukko, who racked up career numbers this year (6g-14a=20pts) and played to plus-22 (+22) in seventy games, scored on his first (and to this point only) career shootout attempt as a pro, bagging what proved to be the shootout winner against the Adirondack Thunder on February 14 at Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, New York. Lukko has now played 135 games as a Royal (10g-24a), which is seventeenth most all-time.  Mike Marcou returned for his third stint with the Royals this season, playing in an injury-shortened season, which included only twenty-seven games with the Royals (2g-10a) prior to being traded to the Florida Everblades in early March. Marcou is currently the fourth all-time leading scoring d-man in team history with sixty-six points (12g-54a) in 138 games with the team (which places him fifteenth all-time in games played).  Mike Pereira, who scored nineteen goals for the second consecutive year with Reading, is currently tied twentieth (with Steve Rymsha) with thirty-eight career goals as a Royal in ninety-six games with the team.  Todd Perry returned for his fourth tour with the Royals this season, registering sixteen points (3g-13a) in fifty-seven games and pushing himself to tied-fourth (with Bryan Molle) in all-time in career games played with the Royals with 191 (9g43a=52pts) behind only Olivier Labelle (296 games), Ryan Cruthers (278 games) and Yannick Tifu (245 games).  Jesper Pettersson, playing in his second season with the team, hit the century mark in games played with the team in the second to last game of the regular season. Three of Pettersson’s four goals over the regular season proved to be game winners—including two separate overtime GWGs for the Royals. Pettersson now has forty-four career points (8g-36a) in 101 games as a Royal. (Pettersson is one of forty-three different Royals to play in 100 or more regular season games with the team.)
 In his second stint in Reading, Kevin Sundher registered seventeen points (5g-12a) in thirty-two games with the Royals before leaving the team (and the Flyers / Phantoms organization) for Europe. Sundher has twenty-seven points (10g-17a) in forty-one career games with the Royals.  Ian Watters, who returned for his fourth tour with the Royals, tied his best career performance with the team with seven goals and twenty-five points (7g-18a=25pts) in fifty-three games with the team. Watters has now played 185 games—sixth most alltime, registering seventy-two career points (18g-54a) and 200 penalty minutes as a Royal.

 Others than the players signed after the conclusion of their collegiate or major junior seasons, Reading had ten different rookies dress for the team this season, including Steven Swavely, Matt Wilkins, Chase Golightly (traded from Florida / South Carolina), Miles Liberati (traded to Allen), Reece Willcox, Zach Hall (traded to Allen), Radel Fazleev, goaltender Austin Lotz, Matt Robertson, and Travis Jeke.  Reading native Steven Swavely had one of the exceptional rookie seasons in Royals’ team history this past year. His thirty-nine points (18g-21a) (and only four penalty minutes) in forty-games, placed him third on the team in points per game average (.975) to Chris McCarthy (1.093) and Matt Willows (1.087) for those who played five or more games with the team.  As noted above, Swavely led the Royals in shooting percentage at 17.0% (18 goals on 106 shots). His goals included two overtime game winners for Reading this year.  Matt Wilkins’ first full season as a pro proved a solid season, as he registered twenty-four points (10g-14a) and fifty-penalty minutes, which included a pair of tilts (including a knock-down-drag-out with veteran Darryl Bootland of the Colorado Eagles back on November 2, 2016).  Wilkins registered five short-handed points (1g-4a) during the season, which was led all rookies in the league. His four short-handed assists also led all rookies (and tied second overall) in the ECHL.

 Four goaltenders logged ice-time for the Royals this past season, led by Mark Dekanich, who played thirty-nine games, and Martin Ouellette (with 32 games). The goaltending corps was also supported with several exceptional spot performances from Drew Fielding (4 games), and Austin Lotz (2 games).  Both of Reading’s primary goaltenders—Dekanich and Ouellette— were selected as the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Week this season. Ouellette claimed the award for the week of March 6 through 12, 2017; while Dekanich was the best goalie in the league in final week of the regular season (April 3 through 9).  Fifteen different goaltenders in Royals’ history have claimed the weekly award led by Barry Brust (three times) and Riley Gill and Brandon Anderson (twice).  Dekanich became only the eighth goaltender in Royals history to register twenty or more wins in a single season (21-12-31) 3.04 GAA (18th best in the league), .910 save percentage and 1 shutout. He joined Jeff Sanger, Cody Rudkowsky (twice), Barry Brust, Jonathan Quick, Matt Dalton (twice), Brandon Anderson, and Connor Knapp.  Dekanich, who closed out the regular season on a four game win streak and went 11-3-2-0 over his last sixteen games, stitched together the longest win streak of the year for Reading’s goalies at seven games (11/25 – 12/10/16).  Marty Ouellette returned for his third stint with the Royals this season, going 15-13-1-1 with a 2.82 GAA (fourteenth best overall) and .907 save percentage.  Ouellette has now played 92 career games with the Royals, compiling a record of 49-33-6 with a 2.60 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.  Oullette’s 92 career games and 49 career wins are second only to Cody Rudkowsky (104 games and 56 games).  Drew Fielding and Austin Lotz were perfect for the Royals last season. In four games, Fielding went 3-0-0-0 with a 1.19 goals against average and a .961 save percentage with a shutout; while Lotz won both of his games for the Royals (2-0-0-0, 2.50 GAA, .919 save percentage).

 This was the ninth season for Larry Courville to serve as the head coach for the Royals. Courville, who took over the team on January 6, 2009, thirty-four games into the 200809 season when the team was 9-23-0-2. He concluded his stint with the Royals eight years and eighty-four days later, sixty-nine games into the 2016-17 regular season. In that time span, Courville was the team’s head coach for 611 regular games, compiling a career record of 343-212-29-27 for a .607 win percentage.  There is no question that an outstanding feature of Courville’s teams was their performance on the road, where his teams won twenty-or more for seven straight seasons. Overall, Courville’s teams went 170102-19-13 in 3-4 games played on the road (.612 win percentage); and 173-110-10-14 in 307 career games at home (.603 win percentage).  The 611 career regular season games for Courville is ninth most all-time in the ECHL. His 343 regular season wins place him fifth all time.  In his time with Reading, Courville compiled the highest win percentage (.607) of any coach in ECHL history who has coached 600 regular season games or more.  During his time with Reading, Courville won more games with a single team than any coach in league history with the exception of John Brophy, who won 416 games with the Hampton Roads Admirals (1989-2000).  Courville is also properly credited with leading the Royals into playoffs for eight straight seasons. His last game with the team came on April 1, 2017, a 5-3 win in Wheeling, which served to clinch a post-season berth for the Royals.  The only organization that has a longer streak of appearing in the playoffs than the Royals are the South Carolina Stingrays, who have appeared in playoffs for ten straight seasons.  In seven separate trips to the playoffs, Courville’s teams compiled a record of 42-28-7 in seventyseven career post-season games. He led the team to the 2013 Kelly Cup Championship..  Kirk MacDonald took over as the interim head coach for the Royals on April 2, 2017, and finished things out with a perfect record (3-0-0-0) in his three regular season games. As a matter of fact, MacDonald also served as the team’s lone bench coach in a 5-1 win over the Adirondack Thunder on January 27, 2017, (due to Courville serving a one-game suspension).  MacDonald led the Royals to a 2-2-2 record in six playoff games against the Brampton Beast in the 2017 North Division Semifinals.  The Royals organization would also like to extend a special thanks to Ryan Cruthers, who joined the team with three regular season games remaining and served as MacDonald’s assistant through the remainder of the year. Of course, the Royals would also extend our congratulations to Ryan for becoming the twelfth person inducted into the Royals Wall of Honor.

 The Royals qualified for the post-season for the twelfth time in the sixteen year history—the last eight consecutively, by claiming the second seed in the North Division of the Eastern Conference of the ECHL and facing off against the Brampton Beast in the North Division Semifinals.  This marked the first post-season matchup in Royals’ team history against the Beast, who claimed the first round series four-games-to-two. This marked the fifth time in Royals’ history that the team was knocked out of the playoffs in first round—and the third time in the last four years (2014 v Fort Wayne; and 2015 v South Carolina).
 Historically, Reading has played in 123 post-season games, compiling a record of 65-47-11. The organization has played in twenty-four post-season series, compiling an overall record of 13-11 in those series.  The Royals lost two games in overtime during the first round series against the Beast—Game Two (2-1) and Game Five (21), which was actually the second longest game in Royals’ team history (95:34), surpassing the double-OT win for the Royals over the Elmira Jackals on April 20, 2008 (92:09) but falling short of the triple overtime loss in Game Four of the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Wheeling Nailers (104:22).  The double-OT loss in Game Five of this year’s first round series against the Beast marked the eighth time in team history that Reading has played into a double-OT (or longer). The team has gone 4-4 in those games, having lost the last four consecutively dating to a 5-4 double-OT win against the Cincinnati Cyclones in Game One of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, when Bobby Shea bagged the 2-OT winner.  In fact, the two OT losses in this series stretched the Royals losing streak to six straight post-season overtime contests, dating back to a 6-5 win in Game One of the 2013 Kelly Cup Championship Finals against the Stockton Thunder.  In twenty-three post-season games that have gone beyond regulation time, Reading has compiled a record of 12-11.

 Two of the principal controlling factors for the disappointing result for Reading in the first round playoff against the Beast would be: (i) a difficultly scoring; and (ii) troubles with holding a late-game lead.  With respect to the former, Reading only scored a total of nine goals in the six games (1.50 goals per game), getting held to just one goal all four losses in the series. (Reading was held to only one goal just eleven times during the entire 72 game regular season).  To add to the late season scoring frustration of the Royals, the team’s nine goals came on 209 shots on goal for an extremely anemic 4.3% shooting percentage.  The difficulty scoring was highlighted in the fact that Reading was able to only score two power play goals in the first round series in twenty-four chances with the man advantage (8.3%).  With respect to the second issue, Reading was unable to hold a third period lead twice in the six game series: (i) Game Two when Brampton tied the game at one with just 3:46 remaining in regulation (and won in OT); and (ii) Game Six when Reading also entered the third leading 1-0, but gave up a game-tying goal 7:21 into the final frame—and then coughed up what proved to be the series clinching game winner (by Brandon Marino) with just 6:22 left in regulation.  These blown-lead losses were especially hard to take for the Royals particularly when you consider that the team went 29-0-1-0 when entering the third period with a lead during the regular season.  Add that to the fact that it marked the third straight season that Reading held a lead in the decisive game of a playoff series but were unable to close out the win and claim the series: (i) Game Seven of the 2015 East Division Semifinals against the South Carolina Stingrays Reading led 2-0 entering the third period and lost 3-2; and (ii) Game Seven of the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinal against Wheeling, which the Royals led 2-0 6:49 into the second period before falling in OT.

 Six different Royals scored during the first round series against the Beast led by Olivier Labelle, Ryan Penny and Robbie Czarnik, each of whom had two goals. Matt Willows, Justin Crandall and Todd Perry were the other players who scored for the team.  In his first post-season appearance in this three year pro career, Chris McCarthy led the Royals with five points—all assists, as he racked up a helper in each of the first five games of the series.  This season, Olivier Labelle became the first player in Royals’ team history to make five separate post-season appearances for the Royals, racking up two goals and two assists in the six games played.  Labelle is now the third leading playoff scorer in team history with thirty-one points (16g-15a) and 82 penalty minutes in forty-one post-season games with the team (third most in team history). Labelle’s sixteen playoff goals is tied for the all-time team lead with Yannick Tifu (16g-20=36pts in 46 playoff games), who is second all-time in playoff scoring behind Ryan Cruthers (14-25a=39pts in 36 games).  In his first pro playoff experience, Ryan Penny registered three points (2g-1a), which included scoring what proved to be the game winner in Reading’s 3-2 win in Game Four in Brampton on April 22.  Matt Willows, who had three post-season points (1g-2a), scored a power play goal in Game Three in Brampton to cut the Beast lead to 2-1, which the Beast was able to hold for the victory.  Justin Crandall, who has played twenty career post-season games for the Royals over the past two seasons (4g-6a=10pts), scored the Royals lone goal—the first goal of the game (1612 into the first period) in the decisive Game Six 3-1 loss for Reading.  Todd Perry, who made his fourth post-season appearance as a Royal, scored his first playoff goal for the team (1g7a=8pts), which proved to be the game winner in the series opener against the Beast on April 13.  Perry has played in forty-two playoff games for the Royals, which is second only to Yannick Tifu (46) for the all-time lead in that category.  Other Royals making their second post-season appearance for the Royals included Jesper Pettersson (1g-8a=9pts in 20 games); Ian Watters (2g-2a=4pts in 18 games); Derik Johnson (0g-2a in 17 games); Nick Luukko (0g-0a in 8 games); and Mike Pereira (0g-1a=1pt in six games).  Goaltender Mark Dekanich played all six postseason games for Reading in the first round series against Brampton (2-2-2), and he was absolutely spectacular, allowing only 11 goals on 239 shots in 406 minutes for a 1.62 goals against average and a league-best .954 save percentage.

 Over the course of the regular season, the Royals hosted 140,764 patrons at Santander Arena in Reading, which is an average of 3,910 fans per game, sixteenth best in the ECHL.  This is an increase of 5,680 fans during the course of the regular season—or about 80 fans per game.  Reading has hosted 2,655,846 fans over the last sixteen years in the regular season, which is an average of 4,610 fans per game.

 Reading continued the organization’s outstanding history of giving back to the Berks County Community over the past sixteen years, donating almost $300,000 back to local charitable organizations over the past season. This included making some seventy community appearances by the players and staff during the season.  The Royals hosted no fewer than nine different games over the regular season dedicated to a particular local charitable cause, wearing special jerseys and hosting auctions to benefit those charitable organizations, including our annual events dedicated to Pink in the Rink, Army-Navy Veterans Game, Penn State University’s THON, Battle of the Badges, Autism Awareness, and our Night of Hope.

Last but certainly not least, the Royals want to thank our most important asset—our fans—for being a part of another season of pro hockey in “R” Town. We look forward turning Seventeen in the not too distant future!

I personally want to thank all of the people who make it possible for us to enjoy this great sport in Reading—and to do something that’s so much fun and that we love. I especially want to send out a note to all of the fans who are part of the special family that comes out to Radio Recon every Tuesday. Thank you for your support. Have a great summer. – mt.

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