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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Dayton, OH – The Reading Royals (27 – 28 – 6 = 60; 5th North Division), were unable to hold two separate third period leads over the Dayton Bombers, who ended up winning 4-3 at the E.J. Nutter Center. Reading bounced back from a first period deficit to claim the lead at 2-1 and 3-2 in the third; but each time the Bombers were able to quickly respond and took the win with the tie-breaking, game winning goal with just 5:16 remaining in regulation. Goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji (9 – 9 – 0; 22/26), playing in his ninth consecutive game for the Royals, took the loss.

Dayton got on the board at the 13:29 mark of the first period when Greg Labenski broke up a Royals' rush at his defensive blue line and sent Paul Kelly on a quick transition in the other direction. Kelly carried deep into the zone on the left side and used a teammate as a decoy on the right, ultimately firing a low, hard snap shot that beat Fukufuji to the stick side for his seventeenth goal of the season. Reading tied the game early in the second period while working on a five-on-three power play. The Royals controlled the puck in the offensive zone, as defenseman Jason Becker found Joe Zappala on the left side. Zappala in turn dropped to Jon Francisco in the mid-slot, and Francisco stepped up and fired a shot that was deflected by Brett Smith over the left pad of Dayton goaltender Terry Denike (7 – 1 – 2; 21/24) for his twentieth goal of the season at the 1:06 mark of the second.

In the third, the floodgates opened up, starting at the 8:25 mark when Joe Zappala ripped a hard snap shot from low along the right goal line that beat Denike to the short side to give the Royals their first lead at 2-1. For Zappala that was his second goal in two games and his eighteenth of the season. Dayton responded 21 seconds later when Paul Kelly was able to walk out in front and slip a back hand behind Fukufuji for his second of the night. Reading regained the lead at 3-2 two minutes and two seconds after that when Pat Oliveto, playing in his first game for the team, sprang Smith with a brilliant pass out of the defensive zone. Smith turned on the jets and was off to the races down the left wing side, laying down a great move in tight to beat Denike with the breakaway goal for his second of the night and twenty-first of the season. Dayton re-tied the game at three 1:20 after that when Matt Herniesen ripped a shot from the low left side, and Fukufuji made the stop, but, after a scramble, Mike Berry was able to put back the rebound for his seventeenth goal of the season. 2:36 later–with just 5:16 remaining in the game–Dayton picked up the game winner while controlling the puck on a delayed penalty call against the Royals.

With the goaltender coming out and the sixth attacker coming on, Brent Walton took control behind the Royals' net and walked out front. Walton was able to get a shot off that was blocked by a Reading defender, causing the puck to flutter into the air. Walton then swung baseball style at the puck and batted it behind Fukufuji for his nineteenth goal of the season. Reading tried a press for at least a tie from that point forward; but, a couple of late game penalties helped quash the comeback effort.

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