Reading Royals beat Norfolk in home opener

·2 min read

Oct. 24—It had been 593 days since the Royals played a regular season game at Santander Arena, and 605 days since they had won on home ice.

Both streaks came to an end Saturday night, as Reading defeated Norfolk 6-4 in its 2021-22 home opener for its first victory of the season in the ECHL.

"Not a perfect game, but for Game 2 — great job," Royals coach Kirk MacDonald said. "I think we dominated the game."

Reading, which lost its opener 5-4 in overtime Friday at Norfolk, created scoring chances early and often, scoring two goals in each period and generating a total of 43 shots. The Royals pressured the Admirals with effective puck movement and sustained possession in the offensive zone.

"Attention to detail led to a lot more opportunities offensively," MacDonald said. "You could just feel the momentum build."

The first period featured lots of scoring, as Norfolk went into the first intermission with a 3-2 lead. All five goals were scored in the span of six minutes midway through the period.

Reading made a goaltender change late in the first, as Pat Nagle entered the game for starter Kirill Ustimenko. Ustimenko allowed three goals on eight shots.

"Ustimenko didn't have his game tonight," MacDonald said. "Credit to our group, they bailed Ustimenko out tonight, and that's what good teams do."

The Royals responded in the second and third periods, outscoring the Admirals 4-1 in the final 40 minutes. Nagle made 18 saves.

"The response was top-to-bottom outstanding," MacDonald said. "(Nagle is) a pro, so he was ready."

Forward Patrick Bajkov recorded a hat trick for Reading, scoring once in the first period and twice in the second. He has four goals on the season.

Two of Bajkov's goals were assisted by forward Matthew Strome, who finished with three assists. Strome also scored the decisive goal in the third period to put the Royals ahead 5-4.

"Tonight we really found our step and we gelled together," Bajkov said.

Six Royals recorded a point Saturday, and three recorded more than one. Reading was 1-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.

"This whole team really can make anything happen," Bajkov said. "We've got a lot of character."

The Royals were supported throughout the matchup by a crowd of 5,325 at Santander Arena to kick off their 20th anniversary season. The game was preceded by an outdoor block party outside the arena.

"I was glad we were able to go out there and get them a win tonight, an exciting one," Bajkov said. "They were great tonight, it was loud all night."

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