Game 35: Elmira Jackals (8-21-5-0) vs. Reading Royals (20-13-1-1)
1:00 p.m., Santander Arena, Reading, Pennsylvania
The Jackals play the final game before the All-Star break and wrap up a three game series with the Reading Royals at Santander Arena this afternoon as part of the Royals's annual Martin Luther King Jr. matinee game. The teams played split a pair of games Friday and Saturday at First Arena and now square off for the sixth of 10 matches this season.
With Saturday's loss, the Royals have now won six of their last eight games since Dec. 23. With six wins in their last 10 games the Royals are up to 20-13-1-1 on the season and have 42 points, which puts them in third place in the North Division. Following the All-Star Break, the Royals have games against Adirondack and Wheeling later this week.
The Jackals snapped a five-game losing streak with Saturday's triumph against Reading, giving them their first win of 2017 (1-4-0-0). With 21 points, the Jackals are in sixth place in the North Division and 13th place in the Eastern Conference. The Jackals will come out of the All-Star Break Friday and begin a three-in-three weekend in Manchester.
Jackals Pregame at 12:45 p.m. Radio: 1410 WELM
Last time out
Sebastien Sylvestre broke a 3-3 tie late in the third period and the Jackals beat the Reading Royals, 4-3, Saturday night at First Arena.
Elmira came out of the gates in the first period and zipped out to a 2-0 lead. Davis Vandane opened the scoring with a neutral zone slap shot at 6:05 of the first period, which ended up behind goalie Mark Dekanich. Less than two minutes later, Matt Lane snapped home a shot from the high slot to make it 2-0 at 7:49, causing the Royals to pull Dekanich and send in Martin Ouellette. The Jackals would take a 3-0 lead 5:05 into the second on Lane's second goal of the night, cashing in on a rebound at the bottom of the left circle.
The Royals pushed back to rally from a 3-0 deficit, cutting the lead to one with back-to-back goals int he middle of the second. First Kevin Sundher banged in a rebound at 10:03, then Ryan Penny tapped in a cross-ice feed at 11:23 during a Jackals delayed penalty. Reading tied the game midway through the third, with Robbie Czarnik being credited with a goal that just barely trickled over the goal line. The Jackals jumped back in the lead for good with 6:37 to play as Sebastien Sylvestre scored from the neutral zone to give Elmira a 4-3 win.
Nowhere to go but up
The Jackals have struggled on the road in 2016-17, posting a 2-13-3-0 record in 18 road matches. Across the board, the numbers for Elmira are better at home than on the road.
Through 18 games, the Jackals have scored just 28 road goals, giving them an average of 1.55 goals per game. In allowing 68 goals, the Jackals goal differential on the road is at -40 and they have been shut out five times away from First Arena, including in two of the last four road games.
The special teams have also not been up to par on the road, where the Jackals power play is at just 10.0% and their penalty kill is at 81.6%, both well below their overall season averages.
This afternoon marks the fifth time the Jackals and Royals have met on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the most opponents the Royals have faced in their annual afternoon matinee. Both teams have two victories over each other on MLK Day.
The first one was a Jackals victory, 3-2, in 2009. They took a few years off and then resumed the yearly game in 2013, beginning a string of three-straight years the teams met on MLK Day. The Jackals won again in 2013, 5-2, but the Royals responded with a 3-2 win in 2014 and a 4-2 in 2015.
Last season, the Royals lost to Adirondack, 3-1, while the Jackals beat the Beast, 2-1, in a shootout.
This afternoon marks the third straight head-to-head match, and the sixth of 10 games between the clubs in 2016-17 as part of the third annual DeMet's Candy Cup Challenge. The Royals won the first four games, outscoring the Jackals 22-6, before the Jackals won Saturday night.
Chris McCarthy (2g, 5a) and Ryan Penny (4g, 3a) are the leading scorers in the season series with seven points through five games. Recent AHL call up Olivier Labelle leads all players with five goals in five games, after the Jackals finally held him off the scoresheet Saturday night.
For the Jackals, Sebastien Sylvestre (2g, 1a), Charlie Mosey (1g, 2a) and Steven Kaunisto (3a) lead the way with three points. Sylvestre picked up the team's first game-winning goal of the series Saturday night.
Scouting the Royals
Following a three-game losing streak, Reading has wins in six of their last eight games since Dec. 23. Reading is in the middle of a stretch of 14 straight games against the North Division, which began Dec. 21 and goes through Jan. 27. Reading is third in the North Division with 42 points and a 20-13-1-1 record.
The Royals offense is sixth in the league at 3.66 goals per game and is lead by Chris McCarthy's 34 points (16g, 18a). Justin Crandall (11g, 19a) is next with 30 points, followed by Olivier Labelle (15g, 15a) at 29. Labelle leads the team with 11 power-play points (6g, 5a), but he was loaned to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch Sunday.
Four goaltenders have seen time in net for the Royals this season. Martin Ouellette has 10 appearances for the Royals this season and has a 5-4-0-0 record with a 3.05 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage. Mark Dekanich was activated off the IR Friday and has 22 appearances on the season with a 10-9-1-1 record, a 3.02 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He was pulled less than eight minutes into Saturday's game against the Jackals.
The Royals power play dropped a spot to seventh in the ECHL at 19.2% (24-for-125) after going 0-for-6 in two games at First Arena. They are now 0-for-16 in the last four games. At home, the Royals are 10-for-56 (17.9%).
The Jackals power play was 1-for-6 in two games against Reading over the weekend, moving to 19th in the ECHL at 15.0% (17-for-113). On the road they're just 7-for-70 (10.0%), which is 24th in the league.
Reading's penalty kill has allowed just three goals over the last 14 games since Dec. 3, a stretch where the Royals are 46-for-49 (93.9%). Despite the recent run of success, the Royals penalty kill still ranks 22nd overall in the ECHL at 80.8%, surrendering 24 power-play goals in 125 chances.
The Jackals penalty was a perfect 6-for-6 against the Royals and improved to 12th in the ECHL at 83.9% (104-for-124).