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Thunder drop Finals opener in overtime

by Mike Benton / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Brad Drey, Purdon House of Photography

READING, Pa.  – Nikita Kashirsky’s two goals, including a game winner with 10:18 left in overtime, helped the Reading Royals send the Stockton Thunder to a 6-5 OT loss in game one of the 2013 Kelly Cup Finals before 5,493 fans at Sovereign Center on Saturday.

The Thunder, who fell short despite pressing for another last-minute, extra attacker goal to force overtime, was led by Andrew Clark’s three assists and led by a goal at one point in the third period. Kashirsky and Yannick Tifu combined for six points and three goals to lead Reading’s offense.


(Reading leads, 1-0)

Game 1: Stockton 5 at Reading 6 (OT)

Game 2: Stockton at Reading – Sunday, May 19 – 2:05 p.m. (Sovereign Center)

Game 3: Reading at Stockton – Tuesday, May 21 – 8:00 p.m. (Stockton Arena)

Game 4: Reading at Stockton – Friday, May 24 – 8:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena)

Game 5: Reading at Stockton – Saturday, May 25 – 8:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena) *

Game 6: Stockton at Reading – Tuesday, May 28 – 5:05 p.m. (Sovereign Center) *

Game 7: Stockton at Reading – Wednesday, May 29 – 5:05 p.m. (Sovereign Center) *

*If necessary

Both teams combined to tie a Kelly Cup Finals record for most goals in one period (six goals in the third period), established in 1999 (Mississippi vs. Richmond).

“We didn’t play our best game but we showed what we’re made of with the resolve and commitment we have to battling,” said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. “You get into overtime and it’s anybody’s game. We had our chances and they cashed in on theirs. Both teams laid it out on the line. We’ve done a lot to make ourselves believe we’re never out of a game throughout this playoff run.”

Ethan Cox opened the scoring at 3:27 of the opening when he cashed in with a rebound to the blocker side of Olivier Roy. The Thunder responded on Shawn Weller’s seventh goal of the playoffs at 7:32, stuffing a rebound to the glove side of Reading goaltender Riley Gill.

T.J. Syner restored the Reading lead just 1:24 into the second period but Harrison Reed one-timed a laser from the left circle to tie the game at 2-2 with 9:59 left in the period, set up by Clark’s feed from the center point.

From there, the third period unleashed a torrent of offense to make a run at the ECHL record books.

Matt Reber was awarded his second goal of the playoffs to give the Thunder its first lead at 3-2 with 13:33 left when he fired a shot off the rush with Eric Hunter crashing the net, causing a rebound to fool Gill past his blocker.

Reading responded with back to back goals by Tifu and Kashirsky in a span of 5:32 to swipe the lead at 4-3. Tifu walked out to the left circle and scored his tenth goal on a wrist shot, followed by Kashirsky’s fourth of the postseason with just 5:10 left.

On the next shift, the Thunder silenced Sovereign Center when Ryan Hayes and Clark combined to set up Nathan Deck at the left circle. Deck unleashed a bullet past Gill’s glove to tie the game just 18 seconds after Kashirsky’s goal.

The Thunder was put on the brink with not much time to spare.

Reading earned a late power play and Alex Berry broke the tie while crashing the net with just 47 seconds left in regulation for his ninth goal of the playoffs.

On the ensuing faceoff, the Thunder flipped the puck into Reading’s zone which summoned Roy off the ice for an extra attacker. Harrison Reed then fed a cross-ice pass to Clark, who blasted a one timer from the right circle through traffic. His shot changed directions off Hayes and found the back of the net with 21.3 seconds left, tying the game and sending Reading’s crowd into shock.

The Thunder had two chances to win the game in overtime, misfiring on Maxime Boisclair’s attempt off the rush while Hayes lost the puck off his stick on an outnumbered attack.

Kashirsky then ended the game when he walked out from behind the net to the left circle and buried a wrist shot over Roy’s glove, sending the Royals flying off the bench to celebrate.

Roy took the loss with 43 saves, one off his playoff high. 

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Ryan Constant and Cameron Abney…the Thunder was outshot 49-30 and went 1-of-2 on the power play … the Thunder fell to 7-7 lifetime in Game 1 scenarios … Reading’s win tied the ECHL record, shared by this year’s run of the Thunder and Idaho Steelheads, for most overtime wins in one playoff season … the home team has now won Game 1 of the Finals for three straight seasons.
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