READING, Pa. –There is an old saying in sports. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Well, beating the defending Kelly Cup in a seven game series definitely qualifies as such. The Reading Royals won Game Seven of their ECHL Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup over the Florida Everblades 4-1, and ended the Everblades one year reign atop the league.
The Royals move on to the conference finals for the third time in the team’s history against one of their arch rivals, the Cincinnati Cyclones, beginning Friday and Sunday nights in Reading, Pa for Games One and Two. In the mean time, the Royals can reflect on how tough their series against Florida was. It was definitely one of the more intense seven game series hockey fans have seen in a long time.
As they did in Game Six, both teams took small jabs, but eventually the Royals struck a blow that hurt the champs and never looked back to win the fight. Four different Royals scored goals but the one that kick started the win into high gear was Joel Champagne’s power play goal 3:54 into the second period.
Barry Almeida, Ian O’ Connor, and Kirk MacDonald also scored for Reading, the last goal also came on the power play. For the first time in the playoffs the Royals had more than one power play goal in a playoff game. Brandon MacLean’s spoiled Riley Gill’s shutout attempt with a power play goal with 1:58 left in regulation.
Gill made 24 saves on 25 shots while Jessie Deckert made 22 saves on 26 shots. Both teams were a combined 9 shots on goal in the first period.
The next test awaits the Royals in the next round of the playoffs. The Everblades go home without their crown. In less than a month one of four teams left standing will get a shot at it. In the Western Conference, the Stockton Thunder and the Idaho Steelheads will begin their best-of-seven series to reach the Kelly Cup finals. The Royals will have home ice advantage the rest of the playoffs. The yellow brick road to the emerald city goes through Reading. It just might end there as well.
Contact the author at Brian.Jennings@prohockeynews.com