FORT WAYNE – The Reading Royals are the defending champions of the ECHL, and it would be naïve of the Komets to think it would be easy to unseat them.
Even though the Komets earned a split in the first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, they know things are only going to get harder heading into three straight games at Memorial Coliseum.
Even when we have them on the mat, they’re going to get up and they’re going to get up again, Komets captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said. We have to keep pushing and pushing.
Seven of the Reading players were on the Kelly Cup-winning team last year, so it wasn’t surprising the Royals came back with a dominating performance in Game 2, when they outshot the Komets 31-20 in a 4-2 win Saturday after losing Game 1 at Santander Arena.
That’s a damn good team over there, and it’s going to be a long series. We knew that going in, Schrock said.
The Komets are prioritizing shooting the puck more, as they did in Game 1, when they outshot the Royals 39-21. They also want to stay out of the penalty box, control the time of possession and match the Royals’ intensity.
We’ve got three games at home, and we have to bring some extra grit, some extra edge, some extra oomph, Fort Wayne defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said.
The Komets have gone 16-11-9 at the Coliseum this season, though they won six of their last seven at home. The Royals are 24-10-2 on the road.
Games will be at the Coliseum tonight, Friday and Sunday, with soft drinks and beer selling for $1 apiece.
I think The Jungle’ will be pretty rowdy, said former Fort Wayne forward Josh Brittain, who has two goals in the series for Reading. But we’ve played on big stages before. It’s part of the game. It’s how you prepare. I can tell you after our team’s performance (in Game 2), we’re going in the right direction.
Both teams will try to get their offensive stars going tonight. Fort Wayne doesn’t have a goal yet from Brandon Marino, Chris Auger or Aaron Clarke, who combined for 83 in the regular season. Reading’s Domenic Monardo, Yannick Tifu, T.J. Syner and Ryan Cruthers are also scoreless in the series after combining for 84 goals this season.
The Royals received forward Dustin Gazley on Wednesday from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. He had eight goals and 15 points in 42 games with Hershey after tallying eight goals and 18 points in 25 games with Reading.
Those guys have got some experience, Danis-Pepin said. They have a lot of guys who were in that run last year, and we have to bring that same aspect at home.