Royales Beat Writer
A true rivalry in the Great Lakes division may have began at Lakeview Arena, as the Royales (14-2) swept the Illiana Blackbirds (10-4) this past weekend Oct. 18-20. With first place in the Great Lakes Division on the line, the two teams fought personal, hard hitting games.
After the sweep, the Royales improve their lead in the division to seven points at the expense of the Blackbirds. However, the 158 total penalty minutes for the series (52.67 penalty minutes per game) and multiple fights made this a rough series for both teams.
Illiana's five-game winning streak collided with the Royale's 11-game streak on Friday night. Illiana started the scoring with a first period goal by Alex Payne, MQT would add a first period goal of its own and go into the second period all tied up. The hockey got chippy fast in the second as both teams were eager to break the tie and establish some momentum. After some heavy hitting and a few minor fights the Royales would open up the game with four second period goals, including a goal and assist by Dallas McLaughlin.
The third period would see the tension between teams escalate as Illiana tried to make things closer with a goal but MQT would gain some distance with two more goals of there own. Rough play would continue as both squads were not letting down late in the third, Illiana would score one more in the third followed by a Drew Jarvis goal to add to the Royales lead late third period goal to make it a 7-3 final score.
Game two saw MQT come out very aggressive and out shoot Illiana 36 to 14, opposed to the night before which saw both squads rather even on shots with 34 for MQT and 39 for Illiana. The Royales put the first four goals of the game on the board, including two by forward Robby Gervino. Jakob Smith would add the Blackbirds one and only goal late in the second period on MQT goaltender Bryce Leaf. The Royales would put the final two nails in the coffin in the third period with goals by Jarvis and Mike House.
The Minnesota Junior hockey league officiating crew for game three on Sunday were tasked with keeping the peace after a rough and rowdy first two games which saw a few minor scraps throughout. Penalties seemed to be called a bit more early and often than the first two games, as MQT had to fight off a total of ten Illiana Power Plays opposed to only having two power play chances themselves. Illiana took advantage of the special team’s chances and put up two power play goals.
This last game of the series saw both offensives doing everything they could to steal momentum as they both had over 30 shots on goal. The Royales would score two goals in each period on Sunday, including a goal by McLaughlin and two by Jarvis who was on fire having a five point afternoon. In the Final moments of the third period Illiana scored a goal to make it a 6-3 win for the MQT Royales. Nate Eminger -- who also started on Friday night in net for the Royales -- picked up his fifth win of the season and kept his league leading .939 save percentage intact.
The Royales and Blackbirds will play the second chapter Dec. 13-15, as MQT will travel to Dyer, IN to play three games in Illiana’s back yard in a even more crucial series being that it is later in the season and both teams are surely to still be atop the Great Lakes Division.
“We can't wait to go down there and play in their (Illiana) Barn," said Royales Defenseman Matt Marcin.
According to Cook, the Royales will use next weekend's bye to recuperate and refocus after the taxing series. After the bye week the Royales will have a chance to keep up there 13-game win streak as they defend their home ice against the Wooster Oilers (10-5), who are currently tied in second place in the division with Illiana with 21 points.
First Line Facts
- Offensive weekend leaders for Royales: Jarvis 3 G 3 A, Lane King G, 8 A, Jeff Salzbrunn 7 A, Mclaughlin 3 G, A.
- MQT extends win streak to 14 and has yet to lose at Lakeview Arena in teams early history.
- Mclaughin was ejected in game three for second weekend in a row and leads team in penalty minutes with 87 min. King is second with 47.