READING, PA – A Michael Huntebrinker shootout goal proved to be the difference on Friday night, giving the Reading Royals a 5-4 victory over the Manchester Monarchs and clinching a playoff berth for his squad.
The game’s first three periods almost felt like three separate games, each with their own flow.
Over the past few weeks, the Monarchs’ opponents have held sway in the early stages of games, but Manchester dominated the first period on this night, outshooting the Royals 14-8 en route to a 3-0 advantage heading into the intermission.
Michael Doherty, Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman and Kevin Morris scored the goals, with assists by six separate Monarchs, including Jayce Hawryluk’s first ECHL assist and Rob Hamilton’s first Monarchs assist since returning from the AHL.
In the second period, Reading regained the dominance they held over Manchester on Wednesday night, evening the contest up on goals from Ryan Penny, Chris McCarthy and Matt Willows.
Alex Privitera would capitalize on the Monarchs’ only power play on the night with a goal brought forth by the second assists of the evening by Hawryluk and Hamilton.
However, Penny would tie the contest up again with just under three minutes left in the contest, capitalizing on a rebound that fell into the crease.
Neither side could do much in the overtime period and Huntebrinker’s goal was the only one for either side in the deciding shootout.
With the win, Reading ends with a 5-4 season record against the Monarchs and keeps within reach of Manchester in the ECHL North Division race.
Manchester (86 points), Adirondack (83) and Reading (82) now all have four games left to play in the regular season, with Wheeling and Worcester battling it out for the division’s final playoff spot,
At the end of Friday, Wheeling still holds a precarious one-point lead over the Railers for that final spot, but Worcester holds two games in hand over the Nailers.
Manchester could help Worcester’s playoff chances as they head to Wheeling for a 7:05 p.m. contest against the Nailers on Saturday night.