Royals Look to Spoil Growlers' Home Opener
Reading, PA - The Reading Royals (0-0-0-0, 0 pts., T-1st North), proud ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms, begin the 2019-20 regular season with the first of three straight games at the Newfoundland Growlers (0-0-0-0, 0 pts., T-1st North) Friday at 5:30 p.m. The 2019-20 Royals season is presented by Tower Health UPMC Health Plan. The Growlers are the reigning Kelly Cup Champions and the fourth team in league history to win a championship in their first ECHL season.
Watch tonight's game at Saucony Creek Brewpub Franklin Station, located two blocks from Santander Arena (100 S. 7th Street, Reading, PA). It's the Royals first watch party of the season. All games are available to listen to at mixlr.com/readingroyals. Tonight's game will not be broadcasted on BCTV due to previously scheduled programming; Royals road BCTV broadcasts return Sat., Oct. 12 at 5:15 p.m.
Broadcast Coverage: Saucony Creek Brewpub Watch Party in downtown Reading | Mixlr.com/ReadingRoyals | Watch on ECHL.tv
The Royals' road trip continues at Newfoundland on Sat., Oct. 12 and Tues., Oct. 15. Both games have 5:30 p.m. EST start times. The first Royals home game on Oct. 19 vs. Maine features a massive block party, games, food, drinks and a special "Downtown Alive" concert on Penn Street before the home opener.
Founded in 2001, the Royals are in their 19th ECHL season and starting their sixth season affiliated with the Flyers. The Royals renewed their affiliation agreement with the Flyers in September.
This season, the Flyers and Phantoms have boosted the Royals roster by sending three NHL-contracted players - G Kirill Ustimenko, G Felix SandstrÃ¶m and F Pascal Laberge - and four AHL-contracted skaters - D Rob Michel, D Eric Knodel, D David Drake and F Steven Swavely. Additionally, F Matthew Gaudreau was loaned to the Royals from the AHL's Stockton Heat.
Head Coach Kirk MacDonald begins his third season as Head Coach and sixth season as a member of the Royals coaching staff.
Eight players that skated for the Royals last season are back, with three on the blue line (David Drake, Garret Cockerill and Jimmy Mazza). Mazza fought twice in the preseason, giving him three fighting majors in his first four professional games. Cockerill tallied a goal and five points in 18 Royals games last season and also skated in the Calder Cup Playoffs for Cleveland.
At forward, alternate captain Brayden Low begins his second season in Reading after registering 33 points (15g) and a career-best plus-seven rating in 2018-19.
Philadelphia, PA native Corey Mackin impressed with six late-season points (1g) in 12 games after signing out of Ferris State.
Frank DiChiara tallied a career-best 16 goals and 42 points and is Reading's leading returning scorer.
Reigning ECHL Defenseman of the Year Eric Knodel signed an AHL contract with Lehigh Valley this summer and has joined the Royals for the opening weekend. He topped league blue liners with 17 goals and 53 points last season (+36 rating) with Cincinnati. The West Chester, PA native hails from the same hometown as assistant coach Nick Luukko, who is the Royals' all-time leading defenseman points scorer. The 27-year-old Luukko will coach his first regular season game ever Friday.
Forward Garrett Mitchell starts his ninth professional season and first in Reading after playing overseas in Slovakia last season. He played the first seven full seasons of his career in Hershey and now lives in Pennsylvania with his family.
The Growlers won the 2019 Kelly Cup in six games over Toledo and return a number of players key to that run. Giorgio Estephan returns for his second season in Newfoundland; he scored the game-winning goal in the decisive game six. The playoffs' leading goals (16) and points (29) scorer Zach O'Brien begins his seventh professional season and his second on "The Rock." O'Brien is a St. John's, NL native and topped the Growlers with 40 assists and 68 points last season. The Growlers return their top-four goal scorers. Second-year forward Scott Pooley led the Growlers with 31 goals last season.
Newfoundland has two rookie goalies between the pipes; 20-year-old Max Zhukov and 25-year-old Patrick Munson. Zhukov won five of his 24 appearances for Green Bay (USHL) last season. Munson led the EIHL in goals against average (2.12) and save percentage (.932) in 2018-19.
Single-game tickets and mini-plans are on sale by visiting royalshockey.com/promotions, calling 610-898-7825 and visiting Santander Arena and The Weidenhammer Box Office at 700 Penn Street, Reading, PA.
Reading's new five-game mini-plan includes a meal for every game, a Reading Royals Hat, an exclusive fan experience, an autographed team picture and a guaranteed giveaway for each of the 5 games. Purchase your seat or seats today by calling 610-898-7825 or by visiting https://bit.ly/2LSHBp8.
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