By Brian Compton
NHL.com Staff Writer
Fans of the Reading Royals have spent the past several years yelling at gritty forward and division foe Matt Herneisen.
This season, they’ll be yelling for him.
After three full seasons with the Dayton Bombers, the Gilbertsville, Pa., native is going home. Herneisen will play for his hometown Royals this season following a Sept. 10 deal that sent defenseman Taylor Christie to Dayton.
It will be a drastic change on many levels for Herneisen. Not only does he get to play at home, but he’ll be performing in one of the top markets in the ECHL. The Royals finished sixth in the league last season, drawing an average of 5,368 fans per game at the Sovereign Center.
“I’m really excited,” said Herneisen, who broke into the league with the Trenton Titans in 2003. “Playing against Reading over the years, I’ve taken notice that they have a real good organization. Great building, great fan base. Reading’s home, so it’s win-win for me. It couldn’t be just a team in my hometown. I wanted it to be a good organization, and I’m glad that it is and everything is working out there. The fans are just another bonus. Hopefully they won’t be yelling at me this year.”
Herneisen admitted he was looking for a change heading into this season. After two dismal seasons in Dayton, the Bombers rebounded tremendously last season, reaching the Kelly Cup Finals before falling to the Idaho Steelheads.
“I talked to (Dayton head coach) Don MacAdam about possibly making a move,” Herneisen said. “He was OK with it and he understood. I’ve been in Dayton for a long time, and I kind of paid my dues there over some tough years. Last year was such a good year, I felt that now was the time. I thought it was a pretty good way to leave Dayton.”
There’s no question that more often that not, Herneisen will be playing his home games in front of family members and friends. It’s not unusual for a player to put added pressure on himself in such a situation, but Herneisen doesn’t believe it will affect his play. In the end, it’s more about victories than anything else, especially after coming oh-so-close to winning a championship last season.
“I don’t think so,” Herneisen said of making any changes in his game. “I think I’ve just got to stick to my game and stick to what we’re doing in Reading. I think it will all come together. I’m not too worried about all the people there all the time.”