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ROYALS TAKE RUBBER GAME AGAINST CHARLOTTE, 6-3

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Reading, PA – The Reading Royals (19 – 18 – 5 = 43; 2nd North Division) exploded for three early second period goals within a span of 4:22 to pull away from the Charlotte Checkers and ultimately win 6-3. Jon Francisco scored the game's first and last goal–and picked one up in between–to become the fourth player this season to rack up a hattrick for the Royals. John Snowden also picked up four assists, as the Royals extended the team's unbeaten streak to four games (3 – 0 – 1). Jeff Pietrasiak (11 – 10 – 1; 35/38) stopped 35 shots, a number of them on prime scoring chances for the Checkers, to pick up his eleventh win of the season.


Francisco started the scoring 5:34 into the game when he took a pass in the neutral zone from Rob LaLonde out of mid-air with his right hand. Francisco was able to settle the puck and carry into the offensive end where he fired a 30 foot snap shot that beat Charlotte's goaltender Alex Westlund (10 – 5 – 1; 30/35; 1 eng) to the stick side. The Checkers answered 1:29 later when Brian Rodney ripped a slap shot from the right point that bounced out of Pietrasiak's catching glove, onto the top of the cross bar, and fell to the left of the goal mouth where Daymen Rycroft was able to quickly drill the loose puck behind Pietrasiak to tie the game at one.

In the second, the Royals struck 1:38 in when Shawn Collymore carried down the wing and blasted a shot out of the left circle. Westlund made the stop on the original stop and appeared as if he was going to be able to control the rebound. But Collymore crashed, found the loose puck–as Westlund had trouble locating it–and slid it in for his tenth of the season. Reading took a 3-1 lead 1:41 later when Francisco sprang into the offensive zone, slipping behind the Charlotte defense. As Francisco carried towards the goal, a Checkers' defender dove, reached out and knocked Francisco's skates out from under him. Somehow, Francisco was able to control the puck and slip it behind Westlund as he slid by the Charlotte goal for his second of the game and his third of the season. 2:33 later Reading went up 4-1, when Snowden gunned a laser out of the left circle that Westlund stopped; but the rebound fell to his feet where James Hiebert retrieved it and drilled it under the bar from in tight for his twelfth of the season. Charlotte cut the lead in half at the 10:02 mark of the second when Bruce Graham put back a rebound of a Lee Falardeau shot for his twenty-third of the season.

The Royals rebuilt the lead to three goals at 5-2 twenty-three seconds into the third when Joe Zappala started a rush out of the defensive zone with a pass to Snowden, who carried deep into the offensive zone on the right wing. Snowden dropped the puck in the slot to the trailing Zappala who fired a snap shot behind Westlund for his twelfth of the season. Charlotte bounced back 52 seconds later with a short-handed goal by Falardeau who blocked a shot at the right point and broke off to the races. As Falardeau crashed the net, Pietrasiak made the original stop but Falardeau was able to force it through with his lower body for his seventh goal of the season. The Royals then turned their attention to playing a smart defensive style, clogging the neutral zone and preventing easy entry into the offensive end for the Checkers. As time was ticking down, Charlotte pulled their goaltender in favor of the sixth attacker, and the Royals' Malcolm MacMillan and Zappala created a turnover in the offensive zone, which resulted in a loose puck and an opportunity for Francisco to bag his third goal of the night with 49 seconds remaining.



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