By Julie Pelchar
READING, Pa. – They employ systems, study game tape, motivate the troops and, in the case of Reading Royals coach Derek Clancey, who works without an assistant, even make travel arrangements.
During this five-day break between the last two games of the ECHL Eastern Conference finals, Clancey and Florida Everblades counterpart Gerry Fleming have assumed another role.
The coaches, along with their players, are working as spin doctors, twisting and twirling the circumstances preceding this long respite so that their teams, rather than the enemy, appear to benefit from the downtime that has stretched this series into a 12-day affair.
“I think the longer the layoff for them the worse (for them),” Clancey said. “They get to think about it longer rather than getting back at it.”
Weighing on Everblades’ mind is the beating they took at the Sovereign Center.
The bigger, more physical Royals wore down the speedy and skilled Everblades, outscoring them 10-1 over two games to even the best-of-five series, which will send the winner to the Kelly Cup Finals against Idaho.
Reading is hoping the ample time before the conference title game which isn’t being held until Monday because Disney on Ice’s Monsters, Inc., is in the midst of eight shows at TECO Arena has doubt festering within the Florida dressing room like it does between the ears of a second-guessing groom.
“Maybe they have some negative feelings floating around in their heads,” said Reading defenseman Doug Nolan. “Hopefully, that’s true. Switching goalies and stuff like that, maybe their goalies are losing a little confidence.”
Fleming replaced playoff starter Rob Zepp with Jeff Maund after Zepp allowed five goals in Game 3.
Maund got the nod Wednesday, his first start since April 9 in a Southern Division semifinal series.
Maund wasn’t the reason Florida lost Game 4; the Everblades clearly were rattled. Veteran Tom Buckley called their performance embarrassing and told the Naples Daily News he and his teammates looked like a midget hockey club playing defense.
Florida forward Keith Anderson sees this extra time as an opportunity to regroup and refocus.
“Definitely the momentum was in their hands after the games up there,” Anderson said of the Royals. “Over this break it will give them time to think, ‘Hey, we got beat twice at their rink.’ It will give them time to think about that on their way down here. I think it’s good.
“It will give us time to rest and regroup. We had two tough games up in their rink, and I think it will give us time to take a step back, look at things and get back on track and be ready for Monday.”
After an upbeat practice at Body Zone Friday, the Royals relaxed Saturday, boarding a morning flight for Tampa to attend the NHL playoff game between Tampa Bay and the Flyers. They plan to skate early Sunday evening at TECO Arena.
Nolan thinks the Royals are too hungry to let these idle days slow them.
“We’ve got a veteran team here,” Nolan said. “I think we can carry the momentum we had in the last two games into the next game.
“We fought back to make it 2-2. We don’t want to stop right now. Keep the ball rolling and see what we can do in Florida. We didn’t come this far to lose Game 5.”