Stingrays fall 4-3 in overtime in their home opener.
Reading Falls to Florida 2-1, Forcing Game Seven
Goaltender Jesse Deckert of celebrates the final buzzer as the Everblades officially force the series to Game Seven (All Photos Credit: M. Richter).
For the first time this playoffs, Reading returned home for a chance to finish out a series in front of their home crowd. Unfortunately, the Florida Everblades stuck to their guns as defending Kelly Cup Champions and managed to force a Game Seven via a 2-1 regulation win. Since the game was primarily one long blur of hard checks, uncalled minor penalties, and plays which never quite panned out, here are the spark notes:
Reading was the first team on the board, with rookie (and 2012 Caps D-Camp attendee) Barry Almeida breaking the stalemate 49 seconds before the second intermission. It was his third of the post-season, assisted by Joel Champagne and Alex Berry. Despite the loss, goaltender Riley Gill played a solid game in the Royals’ net, stopping 26 of 28 shots.
In addition, the Royals had an additional factor going for them – goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who has been playing with Hershey since the lockout ended, came back to Reading to cheer on his teammates as they fought to close out their second series of the 2013 playoffs.
Unfortunately for Reading, Florida bounced back with a vengeance in the third period. They scored two goals exactly ninety seconds apart to take the lead – first Adam Brace (from Mike Cornell & Leigh Salters) and then Salters (from Brace & Mike Ratchuk).
Reading was never able to tie things up, despite peppering goalie Jesse Decker with 27 shots (one of them even went in!).
In true ECHL Playoff fashion, the on-ice officials were very casual with their whistles – most notably, the referee. While the willful blindness went both ways – there was hooking, slashing, and boarding galore in tonight’s game from Royals and Everblades alike – what was surprising was the fact that there wasn’t more overt animosity between the two teams. For all that they roughed each other up and tried to drill each other through the boards, gloves and helmets came off only once (and even then, it was piecemeal, not a full scale fight).
That’s not to say that some of the smaller players on the benches didn’t get ragdolled or the second goal scored against the Royals wasn’t initially disputed (the Royals thought the puck had been played with a high stick, the referee disagreed). But the penalty total on the sheet at the end of the night was four, and two of those were coincidental roughing calls for an incident that left the recently-returned-Royal Evan Barlow helmet-less (he wasn’t one of the two assessed a penalty).
It was with a palpable disappointment that the 3078 fans in the audience filed out of the Sovereign Center after the final horn. Tonight, the Royals played with an ace up their sleeve – that 3-2 series advantage that meant breathing room and the space to make mistakes. Tomorrow, there will be no such grace – the winner of Game Seven will advance to the ECHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, where they’ll play the Cincinnati Cyclones. The puck drops at 7:05 in Reading, where the Royals will fight to avoid being the first member of the Caps family to bow out of their 2013 playoff run.