Champs strike back against Komets

READING, Pa. -- The defending-champion Reading Royals got a 4-2 victory over the Komets, evening the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at one game apiece. Check out the highlights. By Justin A. Cohn.

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vs. Reading
Eastern Conference
quarterfinal playoffs
Series: Tied 1-1
Game 1: Komets 2, Reading 1
Game 2: Reading 4, Komets 2
Thursday: at Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: at Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.
April 27: at Fort Wayne, 6 p.m.
April 29: at Reading, 7:05 p.m.*
April 30: at Reading, 7:05 p.m.*
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM
Ben Hasty | Reading Eagle
Reading’s Domenic Monardo and Josh Brittain, right, celebrate Brittain’s goal in the third period.
ECHL playoffs

‘Mr. Freeze’ ices K’s bid to lead 2-0

– Now that the truth can really be told, the Komets didn’t just want to win one game at Santander Arena.

They wanted them both.

And deep into the third period Saturday night, they had a chance to accomplish their goal. But then the puck was knocked down about 25 feet from the Fort Wayne net, and Brandon Blandina – a guy who had been called “Mr. Freeze” lately by his teammates because he couldn’t get the puck in the twine – snapped it past goaltender Ben Meisner.

That snapped a 1-all tie and the defending-champion Royals went on to win 4-2 in front of 4,008 fans.

“We wanted two, honestly, and that’s the approach we have to take, and that’s the way we have been the last month and half,” said coach Gary Graham, whose eighth-seeded Komets are tied at one in the best-of-seven series with the conference’s regular-season champions.

“Everything we do is a game-by-game approach. We want to win every game that we go into, and we prepare and plan accordingly. We’re pretty disappointed.”

Two former Komets, Josh Brittain and Kevin Walrod, had late empty-net goals for the Royals (46-22-4 in the regular season), sandwiched around Fort Wayne defenseman Jordon Southorn’s goal from the blue line at 19:10 of the third period.

“The difference tonight was our effort without the puck and our discipline,” said captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, whose Komets were 36-24-12 in the regular season. “We didn’t support each other. When you don’t do that, it’s harder to communicate. We had a lack of discipline and were too emotional. We have to understand that’s a championship team over there, and they’re going to battle back.”

The Komets won the opening game Thursday night, 2-1, on forward Shawn Szydlowski’s goal with 8.1 seconds left.

On Saturday, after Reading forward Sean Wiles opened the scoring during a power play with a shot from the left circle at 8:56 of the first period, Szydlowski tied it with a 40-foot shot that seemed to surprise goaltender Riley Gill, who made 18 saves.

Unlike Game 1, when the Komets outshot the Royals 39-21, the home team dominated the chances this time, 31-20. But Reading didn’t tally a shot during its final three power plays, including 1:07 of a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period, and shortly after that, the Komets had a chance to take control. But forward Mike Embach was foiled by Gill during a 2-on-0 rush and, seconds later, his shot during a breakaway hit the right goalpost.

Blandina’s goal came 3:01 later. It was his second goal in 17 games.

“It was business as usual for us (after Game 1),” Blandina said. “We knew we had to come and play, and we didn’t change our attitude or the way we practiced or anything else.”

The next three games will be at Memorial Coliseum, starting Thursday.

“(The Royals) are the defending champs, and their effort was to be expected,” Graham said. “There was not a lot of time and space out there for our forwards, and the game was really bogged down. We didn’t do ourselves any favors. At the end of the day, they controlled the puck more, and that’s a big reason why they won.”

* – if necessary