Reading, PA – For the first time this season, the Reading Royals (10 – 9 – 4 = 24; 2nd North Division) extended the team's win streak to three games, by defeating the Trenton Titans, 7-4, at the Sovereign Center. For the third consecutive game, the Royals struck first and received solid netminding at critical moments from Jeff Pietrasiak (3 – 2 – 0; 25/29) to bag the win. In a see-saw up and down game that saw Reading pull away midway into the third period, Joe Zappala, bagged the game winner, as well as an empty netter with 44 seconds left to become the fourth Royal of the season to rack up a hattrick.
3:46 into the game, the Royals got on the board when Dany Roussin created a turnover at the offensive blue line and charged into the offensive end down the right wing side. Roussin centered the puck to Doug Christiansen, who battled off a Trenton defender and swiped the puck between the legs of Titan goaltender, Joel Martin, for his fourth of the season.
In the second, Trenton tied the game at one 17 seconds into the period when Les Haggett broke into the offensive zone and teed up a bullet from 25 feet that beat Pietrasiak high glove side. The Royals regained the lead at the 5:37 mark of the second when Taylor Christie scored his first goal as a Royal, as he shook his coverage at the left point and threw a wrister on goal that seemed to hit something or someone and change direction and beat Martin. Trenton re-tied the game at two at the 12:05 mark of the second while on the power play when Gregg Johnson uncorked one out of the right circle that beat Pietrasaik to the short side. 1:24 later the Royals regained the lead for good, when Greg Hogeboom (who had four assists on the night) threw a brilliant back-door feed out of the left corner to Zappala, who was crashing in front. Zappala's shot actually went under the bottom of the goal, which had been lifted from behind, essentially causing the puck to go "through" the goal. There was some question as to whether the puck went in; but after the officials weighed all available evidence, the goal was allowed. Chris Bala gave the Royals a two goal lead at the 15:01 mark of the second when he put back a rebound of a Jason Becker (who had three assists on the night) shot from the left point for Bala's eighth goal of the season.
Reading got what proved to be the game winner, when Zappala carried into the offensive end on the right wing side and fired a shot that deflected off a Trenton defender and slipped through Martin 8:18 inot the period. Reading picked up some insurance when Doug Christiansen jammed a rebound back from the top of the crease 12:01 into the third. Hogeboom had fired a shot from low on the left side that Martin kicked out; and Christiansen was on the door step for his second two-goal game in his last three (and his fifth of the season). Trenton made a game of it with back to back goals by Bryan Miller (at 13:39) and Scott Bertoli (on the power play with 2:02 remaining). But it would prove to be too little too late, as Zappala caused a number of the 4,551 at the Sovereign to rip off their hat and fire it on the ice with his first pro hattrick on an empty netter (his seventh of the season) with 44 seconds remaining.
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