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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Reading, PA – For the third time this season, the Reading Royals (13 – 13 – 4 = 30; 2nd North Division) fell a goal short of the Wheeling Nailers, losing in a Friday afternoon matinee, 3-2. Trailing 3-1 as they entered the third, the Royals picked up an unassisted goal mid-way into the period by the captain Chris Bala to draw within one; but weren't able to come up with the equalizer despite a flurry of offensive opportunities that included two waived off goals in the final stanza. The Royals are now 2 – 8 – 4 in games decided by one goal. Goaltender Jeff Pietrasiak (6 – 6 – 0; 23/26) made a number of solid stops for the Royals–particularly during a major penalty sequence awarded to the Nailers mid-way into the second period–but picked up the loss in his tenth consecutive start for the Royals.

Wheeling struck first on their initial power play opportunity of the game, when Jordan Cameron fired a back-door feed from the left circle to Ned Havern who was planted and waiting for the one-timer on the right side. Havern got good wood on the shot, which beat Pietrasiak despite a diving pipe-to-pipe effort. The Royals tied things 34 seconds later with a power play goal of their own. While the Royals were playing with a five-on-three skater advantage, Greg Hogeboom moved the puck to the top of the right circle, where defenseman, Jason Becker, in turn found James Hiebert low in the left circle. Hiebert's one-timer beat Nailer goaltender Andy Franck (12 – 14 – 1; 30/32) to the short-side for his ninth goal of the season. Shortly thereafter, however, Hiebert was involved in a fight with Wheeling's Paul Bissonnette in which Hiebert slipped, fell and injured himself. That injury caused Hiebert to miss the remainder of the game, while Bissonnette was tossed out of the game as the aggressor in the fight apparently for throwing punches while Hiebert was down on the ice.

In the second, the Royals held the early territorial advantage, but Wheeling broke the one-one tie when defenseman Mark Malone hit a breaking Joe Guenther with a long pass out of the defensive zone. Guenther carried into the Royals end on the left side and ripped a snap shot to the right side of the net 5:35 into the period for his fifteenth goal of the season. At the 9:31 mark of the second, the Royals' Malcolm MacMillan was charged with a major cross-checking penalty–among other infractions–at the end of flurry activity around the Royals' net. MacMillan appeared poised to receive a holding minor, but with the delayed penalty on, he also received what proved to be a major for cross-checking at the conclusion of the play. That triggered a fight between MacMillan and Wheeling's Grant MacNeill, which resulted in a minor for instigating against McNeill, as well as fighting majors to both combatants. Regardless, the end result was that the Royals had to play a man short for five minutes. The Nailers scored what proved to be the game winner 2:53 into that power play sequence (at the 12:24 mark of the second) when defenseman Ryan Moren took a slap shot from the high slot that beat Pietrasiak, who was screened by a teammate, low to the stick side at the 12:24 mark of the second.

The Royals appeared to climb within one early in the third when Doug Christiansen capitalized on a clear cut scoring chance directly in front of the Nailer net. Christiansen, who was all alone eight feet in front of the net, beat Franck high to the glove side with a hard snap shot; but that goal was waived off when it was ruled that Wheeling's Bernie Chmiel–who picked up a delay of game penalty on the play–had dislodged the net from it's moorings prior to Christiansen's shot. The Royals did draw within one at the 10:45 mark of the third when Chris Bala sniped a Nailer defensive zone turnover and broke in on goal and beat Franck with a five hole snap shot for his eleventh goal of the season. It appeared that Reading had tied the game with 1:05 remaining when, after a scramble in front of the Nailer net, Christiansen poked the puck through the legs of Franck and across the goal line. However, that one was waived off as well, as it was ruled that the play had been blown dead prior to the puck crossing over the goal line. Despite out-shooting Wheeling 13-4 in the third, the Royals were not able to get what the 5459 at the Sovereign Center wanted most–the elusive equalizer–as the Reading losing streak extended to three.

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