Royals Fall in Game Three in Elmira, 5-2
Elmira, NY - The Reading Royals of the ECHL (2-1-0), affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, were defeated by the Elmira Jackals (1-2-0), 6-2, in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff series at First Arena in Elmira, New York. Reading held a pair of leads (1-0 and 2-1), but couldn't hold off the Jackals who surged for three in the third to stave off elimination in the first round best-of-five series. This marked the tenth time this season that the Jackals have come from behind against Reading to snatch the win.
Mark Owuya (2-1-0, 29/33, 1 eng) sustained his first North American pro playoff loss. Elmira's Brian Stewart (1-1-0, 18/20) avenged his Game One loss to the Royals with his ninth victory of the year against Reading. Neither the Royals (0-2) nor the Jackals (0-2) were able to capitalize on the power play.
For the third game in a row, the Royals struck first. Casey Haines, Ethan Cox and Ian O'Connor worked a tic-tac-toe passing play off the rush which ended when O'Connor threaded one through from the mid-slot that appeared to strike something or someone on the way in to slip by Stewart for O'Connor's second of the playoff season 9:10 into the first.
Elmira tied the game at one 16:54 into the first, when a broken play at the Royals defensive blue line allowed Mike Radja to get loose down the slot. Radja toe dragged to elude a Reading defender ten feet off the top of the crease, cut left to right, and beat Owuya with a quick snap shot low glove side for his Radja's first of the playoff season.
Reading re-took the lead with 3.7 seconds left in the first. Matt Caruana won an offensive zone face-off to Mikael Bedard who fed Zach McKelvie in the high slot. McKelvie took a low shot that hit a falling Olivier Labelle, who was battling in front of the Jackal net, and ricocheted low to the right side of the net for Labelle's first of the playoff season.
Elmira re-tied the game at two 3:36 into the second while the two teams were playing four aside. A scrum for the puck in the left corner drew all of Reading's attention, and the team lost sight of Craig Rivet who was positioned in the high slot. Artem Demkov forced the puck out of the corner to the middle of the ice, where Rivet stepped in and was wide open and all alone. Rivet out-waited Owuya as he carried to the top of the crease; and as Owuya committed down, Rivet went up-bar and in-for his first of the playoff season.
With time ticking down in the third, the Jackals got a favorable bounce that resulted in the game winner with just 3:43 left in regulation. Mario Larocque took a hard slap shot from the left point that hit Nick Dineen, who was skating through the slot, in the right calf. The puck ricocheted to the right wall and bounced directly back to the stick of Dineen, who quickly turned and wheeled to beat Owuya low blocker for his first of the playoff season.
A minute later, the Jackals extended their lead to 4-2 when Dustin Gazely fed one from behind the Royals' net to the mid-slot where Radja stepped in and cranked a blast that blew by Owuya for his second of the night. Rob Bellamy tacked on an empty netter, but by that point, both teams knew at that point that this series was headed to Game Four.
The Royals and Jackals return to First Arena in Elmira, New York for Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal tomorrow (Saturday, April 7, 2012 @ 7:05 pm). Saturday's game night broadcast will start at 6:35 pm with the Red Robin Gourmet Burger Pre-Game Warm-up Show on ESPN Radio 1240 am in Reading. Streaming audio is available free of charge courtesy of America One through the Royals' website, www.royalshockey.com. As with all Royals road games this season, Saturday's game will be televised live locally in Berks County, Pennsylvania on BCTV courtesy of Boscov's Travel and the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
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