Sunday, January 10, 2016

Toledo Walleye 4 at Reading Royals 2 (ECHL) - January 9, 2016


After watching La Salle upset Dayton in Philadelphia, I picked up Dom and we headed an hour west to Reading, PA for some evening hockey. The Reading Royals of the ECHL play at the Santander Arena, located right in the middle of downtown. There is street parking in the neighbourhood, but we parked in a nearby lot for $5 and walked over.



There was a good crowd in front but nobody had an extra. Dom got his ticket at the box office but I decided to hang around and eventually found someone whose friend had failed to show up. They wanted face value but I explained the concept of supply (hundreds of tickets at the box office) and demand (I was the only idiot outside trying to save money). They understood my lecture and sold me the ticket for half price.



The concourse is quite narrow as is common in downtown venues. There are a number of decent food options, including Penn State Stickies (sticky buns) and simple if inauthentic (ham and cheese wrap for example) Mexican food at the Cabana. You should find something affordable, unique, and tasty here, a rarity in sports arenas these days.



The franchise began in Columbus in 1991 and was responsible for increasing interest in hockey in the region, leading to the formation of the Blue Jackets. After two years on hiatus, the franchise moved to Reading for the 2000-01 season and became affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings, hence the Royals nickname. Even the arena got in on the act, with purple seats and gold staircases (below). Jonathan Quick played 38 games here in 2007-08 before moving up to Manchester of the AHL.



The Maple Leafs and Bruins had a joint affiliation in Reading from 2008 to 2012, with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens both starting their pro careers here. You will notice that all three players mentioned are goalies; generally it is only netminders who will make the jump from this level to stardom (or notoriety) in the NHL for a couple of reasons; there are only two per team and goalie performance is inconsistent, so promotions can happen quickly.



The single seating bowl has about 24 rows in the end zones, but I found sitting here a problem with the black netting, so I moved a couple of sections over to get an unobstructed view of the game. There are a lot of ads on the ice, but I didn't notice them while the puck was in play. Overall, I liked Santander Arena as it is centrally located, has good food selection, and great fans. It was impressive to see the different jerseys on display, including the newest highlighting the 15th anniversary of the team, sported by goalie Martin Ouellette (below, drafted in the 7th round by Columbus in 2010). The Royals are now affiliated with Philadelphia so the colours are those of the Flyers, but the numbers are purple in a nod to history, and the combination doesn't work that well overall.



The Toledo Walleye (Detroit's affiliate) were the visitors, having beating Reading 3-1 the night before. Jeff Lerg started for Toledo; at 5'6"and 155 pounds, he is one of the smallest goalies I have seen, but he stopped 48 shots on Friday, earning him another game. That is him in net below, and it looks like he can be easily beaten, but his quick reflexes had Reading frustrated all night.



The Royals did manage a goal in the first when Mike Marcou's slap shot from the point beat a screened Lerg. The Walleye got that back just 20 seconds into the middle frame when A.J. Jenks (4th-round pick by Florida in 2008) snapped a quick one home after Reading turned it over in their own end. The teams then traded nearly identical backdoor power-play goals, with Reading's coming from Adam Comrie (interestingly, 3rd-round pick by Florida in 2008, scoring below) while Toledo's Shane Berschbach replied a few minutes later.



Off the ensuing face-off, Reading took possession in the Toledo zone but Dane Walters poke checked the defenseman at the blue line and had a long breakaway which he converted nicely to give the Walleye the 3-2 lead with the two goals coming just 15 seconds apart. Reading could not beat Lerg again despite 11 shots in the third period. An empty netter from Berschbach capped the scoring as Toledo swept the weekend with a 4-2 win. The ECHL provides low-quality highlights reminiscent of the 1950s.



Notes

Both games I attended featured Ohio teams visiting Pennsylvania. When I reached my hotel in Hershey, I caught the end of another game with clubs from those two states as the Steelers somehow beat Cincinnati in the craziest finish to an NFL game since the Super Bowl.

Best,

Sean

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