EADING, Pa. – The Komets came to Reading hoping to get one of the first two games.
They accomplished that feat.
And they had a chance to get two before the Royals' Brandon Blandina broke open a tied game 15:55 into the third period Saturday, leading to a 4-2 victory over the Komets in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in front of 4,008 fans at Santander Arena.
The best-of-seven series between the defending-champion Royals, seeded first in the conference, and the eighth-seeded Komets takes place Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Royals outshot the Komets 31-20, including Josh Brittain's empty-net goal for a 3-1 lead at 18:51. Jordon Southorn scored at 19:11 to trim the deficit for Fort Wayne, but Kevin Walrod had another empty-netter with 4 seconds left.
Reading tallied six of the first eight shots in the first 8:56, at which point Royals forward Sean Wiles opened the scoring. With Fort Wayne defenseman Joe Hartman in the penalty box for tripping, Wiles got to the rebound of a shot from the blue line and fired it into the net from the left circle.
Komets forward Shawn Szydlowski, the hero of the 2-1 game victory with the goal with 8.1 seconds left, tied it tonight at 18:26 of the first period. Pinned between two defenders, he snapped a 40-foot shot past surprised goaltender Riley Gill.
Reading's Ethan Cox almost regained the lead 4:00 into the second period, when his 14-foot shot slipped underneath goalie Ben Meisner, but it his the post before Meisner sat on it. With the teams playing four-on-four 2:18 later, Fort Wayne's Aaron Clarke circle the Reading net before slipping a pass to Szydlowski, whose bobbling shot was stopped by Gill.
Right wing Brandon Marino, who won the regular-season scoring title (80 points) and finished third in MVP voting Friday, almost put the Komets ahead at 15:20 but his two shots from point-blank range were swatted away by an acrobatic Gill.
In Game 1, the Komets possessed the puck for the majority of the game and outshot the Royals 39-21. Things were much more even Saturday; with the game tied at 1 after two period, Reading led 18-14 in shots.
Early in the third period, the Royals got 1:07 of a 5-on-3 power play – Jordon Southorn was in the penalty box for roughing and William Lacasse for hooking – but the Royals only got one good scoring chance and it was blocked by Fort Wayne forward Chris Auger.
The Komets had some great chances for the lead between 12:13 and 12:50 of the third period, but Mike Embach was stopped during a 2-on-0 rush and, seconds later, Embach hit the post on a breakaway.
The Royals finally broke through at 15:55, when a shot was knocked down in front and Blandina snapped it into the top of the net.
The next three games will be at the Coliseum.
For more on this story return later to Ice Chips, go to www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. or see Sunday's Journal Gazette.