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Reading at Komets
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
READING, Pa. -- As the Fort Wayne endured the 9 1/2-hour bus ride home on Easter Sunday, they didn't have a very forgiving attitude.
The Komets weren't mad at the officials or Reading, though there's a decent hate building there. They were ticked off at themselves. They came home with a 1-1 series tie after losing 4-2 to the Royals in Reading Saturday , but they really believe they should be holding a 2-0 lead heading into Thursday's Game 3.
``They brought it to us at the start, and we matched it, but we have to be the ones to come out and initiate it,'' Fort Wayne winger Shawn Szydlowski said. ``We need to come out on them and let them know that we're not backing down. We're going to do that at home and be even better.''
Game 2 was a defensive slugfest that could have been more hard fought only with actual brass knuckles. Attitudes were nasty after every whistle, with face washes making a comeback. After almost every stoppage there was a congregation in front of the net that required the linesmen to break up more scuffles than they have all season. The referee didn't control the game as much as hope the boys settled down, and they never really did.
This game was about territorial position in the mosh pits in front of the goals and shoving the puck forward in 10-foot increments with defenders challenging all the way. Puck possession had to be earned and then fought for to keep. Shots were even more difficult to get off. The rest of the series will be that way.
The Royals initiated most of the physical play, but the Komets didn't back down and threw some elbows and slashes themselves. They rose to the challenge, but needed to initiate a few more challenges of their own to see if the Royals would back up like they did in Game 1.
Reading dominated the first period, yet the score was 1-1 going into the second when the Komets dominated. After the Komets killed off consecutive penalties to start the third, they seemed to have all the momentum but couldn't push the leading goal past Riley Gill.
Finally, Reading got a good bounce with four minutes left, and Brandon Blandina turned and fired from 15 feet on Komets' goaltender Ben Meisner who did everything right, but the shot was too good.
``Nothing comes easy,'' Reading coach Larry Courville said. ``You have to work at it, and it was nice to see us respond tonight. Nothing that Fort Wayne has done has surprised me. We knew they would come out hard. They are a good team, I believe they are well-coached and they play hard for him. No surprises as of yet.''
Maybe that's the biggest message the Komets learned from the first two games, that they very easily could have surprised everyone. And as well as the Royals played Saturday night, maybe as hard and as smart as they are capable of, the Komets didn't play all that great and still could have won the game.
The Komets had glorious scoring chances when the score was still 1-1 in the third period, hitting a post one time, and Gill made some spectacular saves a couple of other times This series is probably a goal post away from being 2-0 in Fort Wayne's favor.
``Realistically, we almost squeaked this one out even though they deserved to win.,'' defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. ``It's not a 4-2 game but more like a 2-1 game that could have gone both ways.''
This series is only getting started, and it's only going to get tighter defensively. Along with a pair of empty-net goals at the end Saturday, the Royals have scored only three goals on Meisner, and all three were perfect shots. Meisner is settling into a groove and he's only going to be more difficult to score on.
Play is also only going to get more physical, and the Komets have to make sure they are forcing some of it instead of responding to it. They've also got to force more offense.
The defending champion Royals are back up to full strength now, but the Komets know they missed an opportunity to take them down. They also know they can't miss any more chances.
ECHL Playoff quarterfinals
ROYALS 4, KOMETS 2
(Series tied 1-1)
Scoring: 1. R-Sean Wiles (Ryan Cruthers, Stanislav Galiev) 8:51; 2. FW-Shawn Szydlowski (unassisted) 18:26.
Penalties: FW-Joe Hartman (tripping) 8:33.
Penalties: FW-Jordon Southorn (roughing) 4:28; R-Ethan Cox (roughing) 4:28; R-Bryant Molle (elbowing) 8:59; R-Mike Banwell (holding) 12:55; FW-Southorn (roughing) 20:00.
Scoring: 3. R-Brandon Blandina (Kevin Walrod, Brent Flemming) 15:51; 4. R-Josh Brittain (Domenic Monardo) 18:51; 5. FW-Southorn (Simon Danis-Pepin, Scott Fleming) 19:10; 6. R-Walrod (Blandina, Flemming) 19:55.
Penalties: FW-Lacasse (hooking) :53; FW-Lacasse (interference) 11:04; FW-Southorn (misconduct) 19:55.
Shots on goal: FW/4-10-6--20; R/11-7-13--31. Goaltenders: FW/Ben Meisner, R/Brandon Anderson. Power-play opportunities: FW/0 of 2; R/1 of 4. Officials: Referee-Brett Sheva; Linesmen: Shaun Morgan, Ryan Daisy. Attendance: 4,008.