The Royals are 8-0-1 in their last nine, and took four in a row the week of Dec. 12-19, including three victories, in three days, in three different cities.
The team started in Wheeling, W. Va., Friday, Dec. 14, traveled to Cincinnati Saturday, and wound up in Reading Sunday.
More than 5,000 packed the Sovereign Center Sunday evening for the Royals showdown with Peoria. In his last start before heading off to pursue his hockey career in Sweden, goalie Sean Gauthier stopped 27 of 29 shots in a 5-2 victory. The win ran Gauthier record to 8-1-1 in his last ten starts. His record with the Royals was 12-8-2.
After the game, Gauthier weighed his excitement in leaving against his enthusiasm in the team's current winning streak.
"I'm confident in leaving, but at the same time it's disappointing, because you'd like to continue the ride, and ride the wave as long as you can," he said, "but at the same token, you'd like to think that you're a part and where it (the Royals' win streak) was, and how it is, and hopefully it continues."
In the offensive end Sunday, the Royals got goals from five different players, including tallies from recent acquisitions Brendan Brooks and Lorne Toews. Dean Stock also contributed with two assists.
Royals Captain Bryan Forslund dropped the gloves with Peoria's Ryan Finnerty just 4:18 into the first period. The game also ended with a fight, as Peoria's Bob Gassoff dropped the gloves right off a face-off and pounced on defenseman Francois Drainville with 10 seconds left in the contest.
Reading was two for six on the power play.
The Royals began the week on Dec. 7, beating the Wheeling Nailers 3-2. Reading trailed by two going into the third period, but rallied with goals from center Dan Riva and defenseman Simon Tremblay. Gauthier held off the Nailers late and finished the game with 22 saves to pick up the win.
The Royals then made the 522-mile trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, where they beat the Cyclones 4-1 just 24 hours later. The game was the first of four times the teams will meet this season. The Royals got goals from four different players in the win. Brendan Brooks led the way with a goal and two assists, while Tommi Degerman and Simon Tremblay each added a goal and assist. Defenseman Steve Shirreffs got his third goal and third game-winner of the season. Goalie Alfie Michaud stopped 33 shots in his debut to record his first win in goal.
After the 522-mile trip back to Reading and Sunday's win over Peoria just 22 hours later, the Royals got a day off. They were back on the Sovereign Center's ice Tuesday to face Cincinnati again. The Royals won 4-2 for their second victory against the Cyclones in three days.
The Royals were down 2-0 early, but Defenseman Francois Drainville registered his first career goal midway through the second period, which was the first of four unanswered tallies for the Royals. Brooks followed that up with another goal, and Toews power-play goal at 7:25 into the third period put the Royals ahead for good. Stock capped the scoring with an empty-net goal in the closing seconds, and Tremblay, the Royals leading scorer, chipped in with two assists. The win drove the Royals' unbeaten streak to nine games. Reading is 8-0-1 since Nov. 21.
While the Royals got a healthy offensive output in the game, all eyes were on Michaud, Gauthier's replacement. The goalie did not disappoint, who stopped 19 shots for his second win with the Royals. He now has a 1.50 goals-against average, and a .945 save percentage since being assigned to Reading by Vancouver on Dec. 5. Michaud was a standout for the University of Maine, where he racked up a 60-26-8 record in three years there. In his senior year, he was 28-6-3, with a 2.32 goals against average. He spent the 1999-00 season with the Syracuse in the American Hockey League (AHL), and spent the next season with Kansas City of the now defunct International Hockey League (IHL). In 11 games with Manitoba of the AHL this year, he was 6-3-0, with a 2.92 goals against average.
The Royals pointed to a couple of factors that could contribute to their recent success. One is recent player acquisitions.
"Brendan Brooks came along and helped us in the scoring department," Stock said with a smile as he pointed to his teammate.
The forward has been a force for the Royals since he came on board five games ago. He has not yet lost in a Royals jersey. Gauthier also pointed to the recent acquisition of Toews, who has helped the team with scoring.
The team also thinks they have adjusted to playing with each other.
"I think the team is just starting to gel together. Everybody's getting to know everybody," said Brooks, "Once you play with somebody for a while, you get better. It's also a great bunch of guys here, and everybody gets along on the road, and that helps."
The Royals record is now 13-10-3. They have risen from the cellar of the Northeast Division of the northern conference into a tie for third place with the Richmond Renegades. They are three points behind the RoanokeExpress, and six points behind the first-place Trenton Titans.
The Royals are tied for first on the penalty kill, stopping 11 of 88 power play attempts by opponents, a rate of 89.3 percent. At 14.4 percent, their power play is 14th in the league, They have converted 16 of 121 attempts. The Royals are 9-4-3 at the Soveriegn Center, and 4-6-0 on the road. Their overtime record is 1-0, and they are 3-3 in shootouts.