Wheeling , WV –The Reading Royals scored three power play goals and benefited from a 33 stop performance from Yutaka Fukufuji (1-1, 33/34) in a 4-1 win over the Wheeling Nailers to tie the North Division Semi-Final Series at one game a piece. The Royals and Nailers meet again in Game Three on Tuesday night at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia (7:35 pm). The series will return to the Sovereign Center in Reading on Wednesday, April 19, at 7:08 pm. If necessary, Game Five will be back at WesBanco Arena on Friday, April 21 (7:35 pm).
Reading scored on their first of what would be eighteen power play chances on the night when Doug Christiansen dug the puck off the end wall and fed Larry Courville, who floated into the left circle. Courville then slipped a cross-ice pass to defenseman Eric Werner who slid down from the right wing point for the back-door redirection at the 8:51 of the first period. The Royals took a 2-0 lead 42 seconds into the second period while the teams were skating four aside. After Reading gained entry into the offensive end, it appeared that the Nailers had taken possession of the puck and were going to be able to clear the zone. Leon Hayward and Chris Bala, however, conspired to contain the puck in the offensive end high in the slot.
Bala then carried the puck low into the left circle where he ripped a snap shot high glove side on Wheeling goaltender, Andy Franck, for his first goal of the playoff season. 1:22 later the Royals took a 3-0 lead with their second power play goal of the game, which was scored in the waning moments of a five-minute boarding major assessed against Wheeling's Curtiss Patrick late in the first period. After Courville and Leon Hayward worked the right wing wall to take control of the puck, Hayward fed Werner at the right wing point.
Werner was able to carry to the top of the left circle where he unleashed a high, hard snap shot that beat Franck glove side. The Nailers cut the lead to 3-1 on their second long five-on-three power play of the evening, when Kurtis McLean fed one from behind the Royals net that Tim Verbeek was able to somehow hit out of mid air and flutter over the left shoulder of Fukufuji at the 11:59 of the second. Reading regained a three goal advantage late in the second on the team's third power play goal of the game with just 1:27 remaining in the second.
Doug Christiansen gained control of the puck on the end wall and forced his way to the left side of the Wheeling net. Christiansen then slipped the puck into the Nailers' crease, where it appeared to strike the interior of the left pad of Franck and slip into the net to make it 4-1, Reading. Although there was no further scoring, there was plenty of action and physicality as the third period had no fewer than 16 penalties called against the two teams–many of which were of the nasty, gritty variety. But the Royals were able to hold off the Nailers and tie up the series with their first win in April this season.