READING, PA – In what has become an anomaly from the season series, the Reading Royals and Brampton Beast have played two defensive battles to open their North Division Semifinal playoff series.
Reading struck early, but the Beast tied it late and then got a fortuitous bounce off a Reading defender to bag an overtime game winner and even up the first round series. This game featured a long—53:42—scoreless sequence after the Royals scored 2:32 into the first period, during which Brampton maintained control of the puck for significant chunks and had considerably more offensive zone time; but the Royals were able to keep the Beast offense at bay until a partially blocked shot opened the door for Brampton to tie the game with just 3:46 left in regulation—and send it to the overtime.
Twenty-four seconds into the game, Ryan Penny of Reading and Connor Crisp of Brampton were assessed with roughing minors, as the fireworks started early. Eight seconds after Penny stepped out of the penalty box, however, he skated onto a drop pass from Chris McCarthy, cut to the mid-slot and uncorked a bullet that buzzed over the glove hand of Brampton goaltender Zach Fucale for Penny’s first pro playoff goal 2:32 into the game.
Reading shifted to a considerably more defensive posture from that point forward—particularly in the second period, when the Beast outshot the Royals 13-3. But the Beast couldn’t break through on goaltender Mark Dekanich, who was exceptional again for the Royals.
Brampton finally solved Dekanich late in the third on a broken play. Reggie Traccitto fired a shot from the half-wall that was partially blocked, causing the puck to slide to a dead-zone eight feet off the top of Reading’s crease, where Tim Billingsley just happened to be skating through. Billingsley settled and slipped a backhand by Dekanich for his first of the playoff season with just 3:46 left in regulation.
Reading had a couple of chances to end it in regulation, including a two-on-one that ended with McCarthy spinning one directly on top of the goal line, just as the net was dislodged by Brampton’s Chris Auger with 3:01 left in regulation. Reading also had a late flurry on the buzzer; but this one went to overtime—where Reading hasn’t won in the playoffs since the 2013 championship season. And that wouldn’t change tonight, as the two teams traded chances until the 14:47 mark of the first OT when Brampton defenseman Jordan Henry threw a seemingly harmless wrister from deep on the right side—just inside the offensive blue line. The puck buzzed towards the left side of the Royals’ net where it appeared to hit the inside of the right skate blade of a Reading defender and angle just inside the left pipe for the overtime game winner.
The series shifts to Brampton for game three of the series on Tuesday night.