READING, Pa. – The goal for the Komets was simple: Steal one of the first two games.
That was accomplished Thursday with a 2-1 victory over the defending-champion Reading Royals – forward Shawn Szydlowski’s shot from the left circle with 8.1 seconds remaining made sure of that – and now they are looking for the bonus.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals is tonight at Santander Arena.
It’s huge, especially being the eighth seed (in the conference), stealing the first one, Szydlowski said. It’s a big momentum boost. It was big to win this one because we feel we deserved it. It’s huge for us, especially knowing we’ll have one in our pocket going back to Fort Wayne for three games.
The Komets are well versed on the importance of winning on the road.
In their last playoff series, the 2012 CHL finals, they won the first two games at Wichita, Kan., and took the series in five.
We knew coming in that we wouldn’t have home-ice (advantage), but we’ve been one of the best road teams. We had 20 road wins this year, which is right up there among the best teams in the league, said goalie Ben Meisner, whose Komets outshot the Royals 39-21.
For us to come in on the road, we’re more than comfortable. I think we deserved that game. We were the better team and for us to be rewarded and finally get a bounce (was great). Those have generally had a way of going against us this year. It was huge for the morale because playoffs are all about momentum.
Coach Larry Courville, whose Royals defeated the Komets in three of four regular-season games, was disgruntled with the effort of his team, seeded first in the conference.
It’s being ready to play. It’s about winning the one-on-one battles and who’s willing to go to the net and create a forecheck. We didn’t establish anything, Courville said. (It’s not good) when you only have 11 shots going into the third period. (The Komets are) going to shoot a lot of pucks. They shot a lot of pucks all year. We expect them to shoot from everywhere. I didn’t think their scoring opportunities were all that great. But for us to only generate 21 shots against that team is not good enough.
The bulk of the scoring opportunities came from Fort Wayne’s Brandon Marino, the ECHL’s leading scorer with 30 goals and 88 points, who had six shots on goal.
Reading’s leading scorers, Ryan Cruthers and Yannick Tifu, who combined for 35 goals and 104 points in the regular season, had only two shots between them in Game 1.
Reading’s lone goal came from Josh Brittain, a former Komet, during a 2-on-2 rush 12:25 into the game. Mike Embach tied it with a short-handed goal, after a pass from Marino, at 16:47 of the second period.
We’re just going to take a calm approach, Komets coach Gary Graham said of preparing for Game 2. That’s the only thing we can do. It’s nice to get the first one because we can start getting that confidence going. It’s all about momentum in the playoffs and you want to try to create something somehow, some way, in the first game and we did that.