ESTERO, Fla. – Heading into game three of its Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Florida Everblades, the Reading Royals figured it had to do three things if it was to take a lead in the series: score first, score on the power play and keep the Everblades from being successful with the man advantage. When the final buzzer sounded Wednesday night, head coach Larry Courville looked up and saw that his team had gone zero-for-three.Led by the two goal effort of David Rutherford and special teams units that scored two power play goals while blanking the Royals, Florida beat Reading by a score of 4-1 at the Germain Arena. The victory gives the Everblades a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series. Game four is scheduled for Friday night in Estero.
Reading went into the contest with a perfect 5-0 record when scoring first in this year’s playoffs but were 0-2 when the opposition scored. It took just under two minutes for Florida to spoil the Royals’ first objective. Matthew Pistilli made a perfect backhand pass to teammate Mathieu Roy in the neutral zone and Roy did the rest. He broke past the defense, made a fake on Reading goalie Mark Owuya and put a backhander home at the 1:40 mark to give the Everblades the lead.
Roy’s eighth goal of the playoffs was the lone tally of the opening period thanks mostly to the play of Jesse Deckert in the Florida net. Reading had several good chances in the stanza to at the least tie the score but Deckert was on his game. The only shot that beat him was a drive by Stan Galiev that rang off the post.
The Royals did dent Deckert’s armor early in the second. Kirk MacDonald put a shot on net that Deckert stopped but in the scramble for the rebound, it came out into the slot. Mark Mitera was able to find it and snapped a shot into the back of the net 1:07 into the frame.
A little less than six minutes later, the Everblades popped a hole in another of the Royals goals. Working on a power play, the team’s second in the first few minutes of the period, they worked the puck around to Rutherford who was back at the left point. Rutherford snapped off what looked to be a harmless wrister but somehow it found its way through some traffic and beat Owuya for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Florida’s special teams helped to put the game away in the third. Handed another power play four minutes into the final period, rookie Adam Brace lined up a shot at the point and let it go. A.J. Jenks was standing in front and got his stick on the puck, changing the direction just enough to send it screaming past Owuya to put the home team up by two.
The Everblades penalty killers then got back-to-back chances to shine. With Tyson Gimblett in the box, Deckert and his teammates faced Reading’s power play and turned it back. They then had to do it again two minutes after Gimblett left the box when Brent Henley went in. The successful kills were part of a perfect night as the Royals went zero-for-six with the man advantage.
Needing to try to get back to within one score late in the contest, Courville pulled Owuya with a little more than two minutes left. The plan backfired when Maury Edwards sent Rutherford away for an empty net tally at the 17:50 mark to close out the scoring and send the 2,798 fans in attendance home happy.
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