With the first round of the series tied at 2-2, the Reading Royals knew they were in for a tough battle against the South Carolina Stingrays Sunday night. The night started off in favor of the Royals when defenseman Mike Marcou slipped one past South Carolina goalie Jeff Jakaitis at 8:10 into the first.
The Royals kept the pressure on South Carolina and eventually Brandon Alderson would sink another one in the net just after Jakaitis knocked the net off its moorings. The ref immediately waved off the goal and received some jeering from the crowd. After some arguing from the players, the officials met to discuss the call. Without an instant replay, they eventually re-ruled no goal sparking more criticism from the crowd.
Before the period’s end, South Carolina would even the score when forward Wayne Simpson snuck one past Royals goalie Connor Knapp. With the score tied 1-1, the two teams hit the locker room to plan for the second period.
Early in the second, the Royals took advantage of a power play after forward Derek DeBlois was called for tripping. The Royals saw their chance and took it by firing shot after shot at Jakaitis. Within seconds forward Cam Reid would swoop in, nab the puck and shoot it over Jakaitis for his first of the post-season.
It wasn’t long before South Carolina struck back. Less than two minutes later at 4:08, Stingray forward Joe Devin stole the Royals second lead of the night. After his teammate Frankie Simonelli passed it from the right wing to the mid-slot, Devin skated in unguarded and beat Knapp for his third goal of the playoffs.
Not long after, the Royals would receive their chance to reclaim their lead for the third time. South Carolina’s Marcus Perrier was given a double minor for a high stick that struck Olivier Labelle in the face. LaBelle fled to the locker room to get fixed up, but was back before the penalty expired. The Royals were fired up, but could not capitalize on the opportunity. Fourteen seconds later, however, forward Sean Wiles took the puck and deflected it under the legs of Jakaitis. With a score of 3-2 the period ended with the Royals in the lead.
The game was looking promising for the Royals as they were given many chances to extend their lead. Unfortunately, they could not sink any into the net. The beginning of their downfall came at the 7:10 mark when South Carolina’s forward Andrew Rowe once again re-tied the game. With a Reading defender down and sliding across the ice, Rowe’s teammate Wayne Simpson slipped him the puck where he was able to chip enough of the puck to send it flying over Knapp’s arm.
With the game tied at three, the time ticked down and many fans were predicting that the game would head into overtime. These fans were proved wrong when South Carolina managed to score with just 1:21 left in the period. The Royals called time out and pulled their goalie, but were not able to nab another goal before the clock ran out. The game ended with a score of 4-3 in favor of the Stingrays.
Although they lost, the Royals felt they played a good game. When asked what could have went better, forward Ryan Cruthers commented, “Capitalizing on a couple chances, being a little stronger defensively, those plays out in front, just baring down, but it’s just a little bit more effort, a little bit more attention to detail, but I thought we played a pretty good game.”
With the Stingrays up 3-2 in the series, both teams are headed back to South Carolina for games 6 and 7. Game 6 is on Tuesday night and the Royals need to win this game to stave off elimination. If the Royals do win, the series will go to game 7 and whichever team comes out a winner will advance.
Forward Sean Wiles explains what the team needs to do to return home with a win,
“I think we’ve got to get down there, we’ve got to get ready. We have to prepare ourselves. And we just have to come out and play our game. We’ve got to stick to our game plan and I really do think we will be fine.”
The Royals have a tough road ahead of them, but they seem confident and ready to play hard. In the end it will come down to who has the most luck and who wants it more.