READING, PA – For the first time since the team’s championship season in 2013, the Royals put back-to-back playoff wins together by defeating the Nailers Wednesday night in Reading.
After withstanding an early wave of pressure from Wheeling, the Royals kept the team’s perfect record in tact when scoring the game’s first goal (6-0-0). The Nailers tied things at one early in the second, but Reading regrouped, pounded the pressure, and built a two-goal lead which the team held until stretching it to three with a long-range empty netter with 11.2 seconds left in regulation.
Although the Nailers held the early edge in opportunities, Royals’ goaltender Adam Morrison had his A-Game ready for the early onslaught, allowing his team to get their skates underneath them as the game proceeded. Late in the first, Reading hit pay dirt two seconds after completion of the team’s second power play chance of the night, when defenseman Mike Marcou took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that appeared to knuckle and arc over the right shoulder of goaltender Brian Foster and into the net for Marcou’s third of the playoff season with 1:12 remaining in the opening frame.
Wheeling tied the game at one eight seconds after the completion of the Reading’s third power play chance of the night. The Royals had control of the puck in the offensive zone but a back pass to the offensive blue-line eluded its intended target and slid into the neutral zone, where Shane Bakker stepped right out of the penalty box and right onto the loose puck, busting into the Royals’ end on a relatively clean breakaway. Bakker slipped the puck between the legs of Morrison, who got a chunk of it but not enough to keep it above the goal line 56 seconds into the second frame for Bakker’s second of the playoff season.
Undaunted, the Royals charged back with a vengeance and got what proved to be the game winner 6:48 into the second, when Kevin Goumas led out Justin Crandall into the offensive zone down the right wing side. Crandall bumped a pass to the middle of the ice, where Cam Reid found a soft seam that led to the top of the crease. Reid got two whacks at the puck—and finished on the second for his fourth of the playoff season and what proved to be his second game winner of the playoff season 6:48 into the second.
Reading got a little insurance 12:35 into the third after an extended sequence of offensive zone pressure, during which it appeared that the Nailers had a couple of chances to get the puck out of the defensive zone; but those were turned back with a relentless forecheck by the Royals. Defenseman Maxim Lamarche kept the puck in the zone and the play alive with a strong play at the point, allowing Todd Perry to gain possession and slide a diagonal down pass to a waiting Mike Pelech low on the right side. Pelech swiped a one-timer that slid under and through Foster for his first of the playoff season.
From that point forward—through the final buzzer—the Royals played a smart and simple style that kept the hard charging Nailers from breaking through again. A big part of that effort was the confident play of Morrison who made 37 saves—fourteen of which came in the third period. Reading added an empty netter with 11.2 seconds left, but that was more than was needed to take the team’s first lead in this second round series.
Game four of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series is tonight at 7pm at Santander Arena.
Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey