It’s hard for a losing team to find a lot of positives in a game that ended 7-2, but the one pro on a long list of cons was the return of the Reading Royals’ former captain and all-time leading scorer Ryan Cruthers. Donning purple and white for the second time this season and the first time at home since 2012, Cruthers and his teammates fell to the Fort Wayne Komets on Saturday night.
“It’s always hard when you’re down three-nothing early,” Captain Yannick Tifu lamented about the first period. “There’s no excuse. There’s no reason we should have been down three-nothing.”
The Royals left the ice at first intermission out-scored 0-3 and out-shot 4-14. And while the second period saw an uptick in pace against Fort Wayne, this momentum did not follow Reading into the third. After the Komets’ fifth goal lit Reading’s lamp, goaltender Brandon Anderson lost his cool and engaged in the first of three brawls in the last seven minutes of the game. These fights did little to re-charge Reading’s team—the game ended Komets 7 and Reading 2.
“We’re just in a slump,” Tifu told the press after Saturday’s loss. “I told the guys we just need to turn the page and be ready to work Monday morning.”
The Return of a Familiar Face
“We’ve got 14 guys that initially started on our roster that are out,” Coach Larry Courville stated. Plenty of new names have been appearing on the Royals’ roster since the start of the season. In his second game with Reading, Degon dropped the gloves for his new team on Saturday, and Goalie Anderson was in the net for only the 8th time this season.
Among the new faces on the bench was a familiar one for fans at Santander Arena. Former Captain and all-time leading scorer Ryan Cruthers represented the Purple and White at home for the first time since he was traded to the Alaska Aces in March 2012 for Ethan Cox and future considerations.
“Well, you know he’s all-time leading scorer. We were forced to trade him because we weren’t great and he had some value within the league and we ended up trading him for two guys,” explained Coach Courville. “We brought him back for some short numbers… He’s got 5 points in two games. He’s gotta be pretty happy with his performance.”
Since leaving Reading, Cruthers finished the 2011-2012 season with the Aces and then moved on to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. Most recently, he has been the Director of Hockey at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania where he manages over 85 kids in the Junior Royals hockey program. After working at what Coach Courville described as “basically a desk job” for the last six months, Cruthers has made a smooth transition back onto the ice.
“It was great, there was a great response. I know a lot kids who play for me are here, family is here, so it was great to be back,” Cruthers said.
Cruthers went on to explain, “Larry called me on Friday. We had talked all summer long, we knew this was probably going to happen, but we were waiting for the right time. And then he called me on Friday, I was away coaching and I told him I’d be there on Monday.”
When asked if his spot on Reading’s roster would last, Cruthers responded, “We’re taking it a day at a time right now.”
The all-time leading scorer for the Royals registered 167 points and 192 penalty minutes in 159 regular season games over three seasons (2009-12). Prior to turning pro, Cruthers split an impressive collegiate career between West Point and Robert Morris University. Before transferring to Robert Morris University, Cruthers was named West Point’s most Outstanding Freshman in 2004 after leading the team in scoring. He was named a captain as a senior at Robert Morris, and finished the season as a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.
The Fort Wayne Komets 7-2 win over the Reading Royals was sour for a team struggling to maintain a steady roster, but it didn’t make Ryan Cruthers’s homecoming any less sweet.
“Hockey is a fun sport,” Cruthers said with a smile. “It was an easy transition. It was like I never left, to be honest.”