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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Wheeling, WV – The Reading Royals (16 – 16 – 4 = 34; t-2nd North Division) rebounded from a shutout loss to the Wheeling Nailers last Sunday, by jumping out early, holding off an onslaught of pressure from Wheeling, and then bagging a third period power play goal to win 3-2. Reading forwards Jon Francisco and John Snowden, both of whom were activated from the injured reserve today, factored large in the scoring; and it was a power play goal by Snowden with just 7:53 remaining that proved to be the difference. Goaltender Jeff Pietrasiak (8 – 9 – 0; 43/45) responded brilliantly to the waves of pressure brought by the Nailers, particularly in the final forty minutes when Wheeling out-shot the Royals 36 – 15, to pick up the win for Reading.

The Royals got on the board first when they snapped an 0 for 19 streak (over four games) on the power play when Francisco won a face-in the left circle to John Snowden, who tapped it back to the left point to Greg Hogeboom. Hogeboom floated into the high slot and ripped a pass to Chris Bala who was planted low on the left side near the net. As Bala stepped towards the front of the goal, he slipped a back-hander through the legs of Wheeling goaltender, Andy Franck (14 – 17 – 2; 23/26), for the 1-0 lead 4:53 into the game. Reading went up by two, when Hogeboom slipped one through Franck on a redirection of a Shawn Collymore shot from the right point 8:16 into the first. For Hogeboom, who was skating from left to right in front of the net with his back to the goal and was able to deflect the puck–which appeared to be going wide–through the legs of Franck, this was his team leading twentieth goal of the season.

In the second period, the Nailers controlled the clear territorial and shot advantage, but Pietrasiak was nothing short of spectacular for Reading, repeatedly rejecting a spate of Grade-A scoring chances. However, late in the period, the Nailers cut the Royals' lead in half while on a delayed penalty, the Wheeling goaltender pulled and the sixth attacker on the ice. After keeping the play alive for an extended period, defenseman Cody Blanshan took a shot from the point that hit Royals' defenseman Shawn Germain in the chest. However, the puck fell free in the left circle, where Ned Havern teed it up and blasted it high glove side on Pietrasiak with just 3:15 left in the period.

Wheeling tied the game at two with a 5-on-3 power play goal 7:17 into the third when the Nailers were able to maintain sustained pressure and puck control despite a couple of opportunities for Reading to clear the zone. Ultimately, Jordan Cameron found Tim Wallace in the high slot with space. Wallace stepped down low towards the center of the ice where he uncorked one that beat Pietrasiak to the glove side. The Royals killed off the back-end of the power play sequence for the Nailers and seemed to regroup and turn the pressure in the other direction. The end result was a power play on which the Royals capitalized with just 7:53 remaining in the game. On the game winning goal, the Royals pressed hard, resulting in a blast from point blank range by Francisco. Franck made that stop, but the rebound was loose in front of the goal; and Snowden was able to take control of that puck. Franck rejected Snowden's first attempt from in tight, but Snowden was able regain possession and fire the rebound through for his seventh goal of the season. Wheeling attempted to muster a comeback down the stretch, but a series of penalties forced the Nailers to play short as time wound down, giving the Royals the momentum needed to close this one out.

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