Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (win, 1-1-0) of the ECHL, affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, defeated the Fort Wayne Komets (loss, 1-1-0), 4-2, in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania. The win by Reading evened the best-of-seven series, which now travels to Fort Wayne for Games Three through Five, at one game apiece.
In this one, the Royals scored twenty-one seconds into the first power play chance of the night mid-way into the first; but found themselves in another dog-fight with the Komets after they answered late in the opening frame. The game remained a 1-1 tie until late in the third—thanks in no small part to a couple of huge saves by goaltender Riley Gill (win, 1-0-0, 18/20 in 59:54), one of which came on a two-on-none short-handed break for the Komets in the third. Reading then got a late game tie-breaker from Brandon Blandina, but needed an empty netter to hold off a late surge from the Komets and pick up the team’s first win of the year over Fort Wayne on Reading’s home ice.
Reading struck on the team’s first power play chance of the night 8:54 into the first period. Stanislav Galiev loaded one up from the high slot that deflected off a Fort Wayne defender and fell to Ryan Cruthers who was set up just inside the left circle. Cruthers tapped off a beautiful tap pass four feet off the top of the crease to Sean Wiles, who angled the puck behind goaltender Ben Meisner (loss, 1-1-0, 27/29 in 59:32, 2 eng) for his first of the playoff season.
Fort Wayne tied things with 1:34 left in the first period, when Shawn Szydlowski was able to get off a snap shot from the high slot, despite being well-guarded by a pair of Royals. The shot appeared to deflect off the cuff of the catching glove of Gill and in for Szydlowski’s second of the playoff season.
After a scoreless second—and a large chunk of back-and-forth give-and-take in the third—the Royals broke the 1-1 tie with 4:09 remaining in regulation. Defensemen Brett Flemming got a great look off the top of the right circle, on which Meisner made a brilliant glove save. However, Meisner was unable to snare the puck; and as the Royals pressed hard, the puck bounced to the low left slot where Kevin Walrod forced it towards the net. Brandon Blandina took it from there, swiping a back-hand behind Meisner for his first of the playoff season.
Fort Wayne attacked hard trying to gain the equalizer; but the Royals were able to build a two-goal lead (at 3-1) with a 120 foot empty-netter by Josh Brittain with 1:09 left in regulation. That was a good thing, because the Royals ended up needing that one.
With 49.6 seconds left in regulation, Fort Wayne’s Jordan Southorn fired a shot from the left point that appeared to deflect off a Reading defender, change directions and beat Gill low to the glove side to make it a 3-2 nail biter. But Reading iced things before they chewed off the end of their collective fingernails with an empty netter by Kevin Walrod with just 4.3 seconds left in regulation.
The Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Royals and Komets now shifts to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana for Game Three on Thursday (April 24 @ 7:30 pm). The game night broadcast on Thursday will kick off with the Pre-Game Warm-Up Show presented by Highmark Blue Shield at 7:00 pm on CBS Sports Radio 1240 am and 98.5 fm in Reading. As with all Royals road games, Thursday’s game will be televised locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on BCTV courtesy of Boscov’s Travel and Apple Vacations.
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