The Marquette Royales lost a physical game in their return to Lakeview Arena to the Wisconsin Rapids River Kings.
“We lost the game but we won the battle,” said Royales Head Coach Kevin Shupenia. “For our team to be successful, we have to be physical and some teams aren’t used to that. We’re going to have to be physical to be successful.”
Wisconsin Rapids hit the scoreboard first after Graham Walsh’s pass from behind the extended goal line hit Dave Landau in the slot for the quick wrister at 6:08.
The Royales were able to equalize halfway through the period as Bennett Weycker’s shot went wide, bounced off the back boards towards Ingus Matins, who put it in the rebound. Less than a minute later, the River Kings regained the lead from Austyn Quarters’s shot over Bryce Leaf’s left leg blocker.
The first penalty of the game came Marquette’s way with 86 seconds left in the first period for too many men on the ice. The Royales killed the penalty the rest of the way in the second period.
Tyler Harkins was able to get open down low for Wisconsin Rapids and knock in the River Kings’ third goal of the night two minutes into the second period. Again, the Royales responded shortly after as Cameron Wirick was able to pick up the trash in front of Wisconsin’s goalie Cody Stein.
Stein was pulled after the goal, as River Kings’ Head Coach Marty Quarters put in Tyler Martz. Martz played for two faceoffs before Stein returned to the crease.
Harkins got his second of the period after a scramble for the puck with Marquette’s KJ Humphreys. After the puck popped up in the air between the two circles in the Royales’ defensive zone, both players used their hands and sticks to establish control. Harkins was able to get the shot and the goal. The second period ended with the River Kings up 4-2.
With 13:46 left in the third period, the Royales got one goal closer after Andrew Dominick connected on a long pass with a wide open Matins.
The coaching staff was happy with Matins play in the game, with both coaches saying he is one of the most improved players on the team.
“He’s always had the skill, but he had to gain the physicality,” Assistant Coach Jim Stanaway said.
Max Legere regained the two-goal advantage by stuffing the puck past Bryce Leaf’s leg pad to make it 5-3 Wisconsin Rapids.
The teams erupted into a multiplayer brawl with 8:43 to go. Austin Koep had his face cut as his helmet was ripped off and Casey La Bonte has a potential concussion. After watching a replay of the incident, Harkins, Blake Zabinski, Quarters and Mills Johnson left the bench, giving the River Kings nine skaters against the Royales five in the fray.
There were so many penalties for both teams that the public announcer told fans to reference the MnJHL website after the game. Only a major was given to Sam Weidenbaum on the ice, putting Marquette down a man for five minutes. A second major for kneeing on Weycker knocked it down to three Royales on the ice.
Leaf stopped all 11 shots on goal during the penalty kill. The two teams stayed 5-3 to end the game with the visiting River Kings taking the win.
The two-goal loss was a better result than any of the previous games against Wisconsin Rapids. The River Kings swept the Royales the first week of the season 3-0, 4-1 and 6-1 on Sept. 26-28.
“You see the improvement from that first weekend,” Stanaway said. “If we keep developing like this, these close games will turn into wins.”
The Royales are now 6-9-0-1 on the season, good enough for fifth place in the division. Forwards Leonid Anikin and Alec Morris will return to play after serving their suspensions occurred during last week’s series in St. Louis. The two teams will face off tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Lakeview Arena.