Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (7 – 8 – 3 = 17; 4th North Division) defeated the Toledo Storm for the third time in three tries at the Sovereign Center this season, 4-2. The Royals gave up two early goals, but regained the team's composure and the lead by ringing off three consecutive goals in the first period. Chris Bala bagged an empty netter with just 2 seconds left for a bit of insurance. Royals' goaltender Ryan Munce (4-5-3, 18/20) made the stops he needed to make down the stretch, and the Royals' defense was solid and simple in the critical moments, killing off seven consecutive power plays (after allowing a power play goal on Toledo's first chance with the man advantage) including a seven-minute power play sequence for the Storm at the end of the first (which carried over into the second) and three consecutive power play chances for Toledo in the third. On the flip side, the Royals' power play struck for two goals in four chances.
As has been the case in fourteen of the eighteen games for Reading this season, the opposition scored the game's first goal when Toledo's Mike Walsh put back a loose puck from the top of the crease 3:30 into the first period, while the Storm was on their first power play of the night. The Storm extended their lead to 2-0 when Taylor Raszka redirected a Dan Watson shot from the left point that slipped through Munces right arm 7:38 into the first. The Royals cut the lead in half on their first power play sequence of the night, as back-to-back penalties to the Storm gave Reading a five-on-three skating advantage for 43 seconds midway into the period. The Royals Ned Lukacevic went point-to-point to Reagan Rome who slipped a brilliant diagonal feed from the top of the left circle towards John Snowden who was planted low in the right circle. Snowden ripped a one-timer behind Toledo goaltender, Stefan Liv (0-1-0; 33/37) 10:09 into the first. For Snowden, that goal (his fourth of the season) extended his goal scoring streak to three games. Reading tied the game at two on their next power play when Rome (again) fired a shot from the left point that James Hiebert redirected behind Liv 13:19 into the period for his fifth of the season.
At the 18:19 mark of the first Rob LaLonde dropped his gloves and stick in an apparent effort to fight Toledo's Taylor Raszka, who did not respond. LaLonde was assessed a two-minute minor for instigating and a five minute major for fighting. No penalty was assessed against Raszka. At the same time a second fight broke out between Hiebert and Jon Sitko of Toledo. Both of those players were tossed from the game for being involved in a secondary altercation. The end result was a seven minute power play for the Storm at the end of the first period, which was interrupted by a two minute minor assessed against Toledo's Nick Parillo when he had to thwart a Greg Hogeboom short-handed breakaway thirty seconds later with a hook.
The Royals scored in the ensuing four-on-four when Lukacevic broke hard into the offensive end on the left wing side and was forced wide around the Toledo net. With one hand on the stick, Lukacevic was able to slide a feed from the right side of the Storm goal to the mid-slot where defenseman Shawn Germain stepped up and ripped a low hard slap shot that Liv kicked out. The rebound fell to Joe Zappala who fired it home for what proved to be his first game winner as a pro (and his third of the season) with just 40 seconds remaining in the period. Reading's penalty killers were able to keep Toledo off the board through the remainder of the extended power play sequence, as well as three consecutive chances with the man advantage in the third. The Royals continued to play aggressive and exciting hockey through the last forty minutes (outshooting Toledo 21-12 in the second and third periods); but for the second consecutive game, Reading's defense played smart and simple, preventing any significant scoring chances for the Storm as they pressed late in the game. Reading's Chris Bala ended things with a hard-earned breakaway empty-netter with 2.9 seconds left to send the 5,157 to at the Sovereign Center towards the parking lot with a smile on their collective faces.
Reading is back in action tomorrow night, when the team travels to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena for the first time this season to take on the Johnstown Chiefs (7:00 pm). Royals' game night broadcasts can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1240 am (and on the internet through the Royals' website, www.royalshockey.com
), beginning thirty minutes before the opening faceoff.