BRAMPTON, ONT – It had been a long time — four-plus years, in fact — since Brampton Beast fans had been treated to playoff hockey, but on Tuesday night, the wait was over.
In their first Kelly Cup playoff game at Powerade Centre, the Beast picked up their second ever home playoff win, 2-1 over the Reading Royals. The Beast now lead their best-of-seven division semifinal series with the Royals 2-games-to-1.
For the third straight game, the Royals and Beast played to a 2-1 score—with the Beast claiming their second consecutive win by that score. For the first time in the series, Brampton struck first—on their first power play chance of the game—and built a 2-0 first period lead in relatively short-order. The Royals battled back to bag a power play goal of their own—the team’s first of the series—in the latter stages of the second to cut the Brampton lead in half. In the third, Reading was held pretty much at bay until a late-game power play, during which the team pulled the goaltender and created several quality looks in the quest to tie, but it all came up empty.
The Beast broke through on their first power play chance of the game when Luke Pither settled off the right half-wall and slid the puck to the mid-slot where Chris Auger was wide open and waiting for the quick redirect that eluded goaltender Mark Dekanich for Auger’s first of the playoff season 12:28 into the first.
2:32 later, Brampton would bag what would prove to be the game-winner when Matt Petgrave blocked a shot in the Beast defensive zone and then tracked the loose puck in the neutral zone. Petgrave charged down the right side into Reading’s defensive end and threw a cross-ice pass to David Vallorani, who entered the zone trailing late. Vallorani settled and stepped up for a hot rocket that buzzed over the catching glove of Dekanich and sent the water-bottle tumbling for Vallorani’s first of the playoff season.
Reading finally broke through on the team’s second power play of the night—and tenth PP of the series—when Matt Willows took control deep on the left side, worked his way back up the wing, and the arced towards the middle of the ice where he turned in the high slot and threw an against the grain snap shot that whizzed under the blocker of goaltender Zach Fucale’s for Willows’ first of the playoff season.
In the third, the Beast kept the Royals pretty much at bay, holding Reading to just two shots on goal until late in the game when the Royals’ Olivier Labelle was assessed with a slashing minor—and simultaneously Brampton’s Dalton Thrower was hit with an undisciplined double-minor for attempted spearing. That put the Royals back on the power play with just 2:07 left in regulation. Reading tried to make the most of the late-game opportunity by pulling Dekanich in favor of a sixth attacker, resulting in a late-game flurry that included a snap shot from the high slot by defenseman Jesper Pettersson that clanged off the pipe but stayed out. But that would be as close as Reading would get to tying the game,
Game four of this best-of-seven series goes Thursday night at 7 pm ET at Powerade Centre.