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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

ECHL North Division Semifinal Preview: Reading Royals vs. Maine Mariners

ECHL North Division Semifinal Preview: Reading Royals vs. Maine Mariners

READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals and Maine Mariners are set to begin their North Division semifinal series Friday in Reading.  This will be a rematch of last season’s North Division semifinal, in which Reading eliminated Maine in six games.  Only five Royals remain from last season’s playoff roster (defensemen Mike Chen, Will MacKinnon, Garrett McFadden, and Mason Millman, and goaltender Pat Nagle).  There are nine returnees for the Mariners, including captain Connor Doherty and last year’s top postseason goal-scorers Nick Master and Cameron Askew.

The Mariners started out cold, but after a rough November (2-7-1-0), finally pieced something together for a strong December (9-2-0-0) and January (9-1-0-1) that included an eleven-game streak without a regulation loss.  Maine slipped back into mediocrity, hovering around .500 for much of the remainder of the regular season.

The Royals got off to a slow start as well, dropping their first four games.  A six-game winning streak in November seemed to turn things around for them, and they shot up in the standings, even threatening to overtake the Newfoundland Growlers for first place in the North Division.  The Royals went 24-8-1-0 from November through January before falling off the rails and coming close to being overtaken by the Mariners.

Final Regular Season Records

Reading: 41-25-5-1, 88 points (5th in Eastern Conference, 9th in ECHL)
Maine: 42-27-2-1, 87 points (6th in Eastern Conference, 10th in ECHL)

Series Schedule

Game 1: Friday, April 21 – Maine at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 2: Saturday, April 22 – Maine at READING – 7:00 pm ET
Game 3: Monday, April 24 – Reading at MAINE – 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Tuesday, April 25 – Reading at MAINE – 7:00 pm ET
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 26 – Reading at MAINE – 7:00 pm ET
*Game 6: Saturday, April 29 – Maine at READING – 7:00 pm ET
*Game 7: Sunday, April 30 – Maine at READING – 3:00 pm ET
*If Needed

Season Series Recap

The Royals took the regular season series, 4-2, but only outscored the Mariners by three goals (21-18).  Of the teams’ six games, all but one were one-goal games (or would have been if not for empty-net goals).  Michael DiPietro had both of Maine’s victories, while Nagle picked up a pair of wins for Reading.  Maine’s Patrick Shea led both teams with ten points (seven goals, three assists) and had three multi-point games, including a four-point night in December and a hat trick in January.  Millman led the Royals with eight points (one goal, seven assists).

How Reading Wins

Ride Nagle throughout the series.  He has proven reliable not only in the regular season series against Maine, but throughout the entire season.  Nagle went 21-7 with a 2.61 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.908 save percentage in the regular season.

The power play has to be better than it was in the regular season.  Reading was in the lower half of the league with the man-advantage.  There should be far fewer penalties taken in the postseason, but with every game a crucial one now, it’s even more important to capitalize on every opportunity given.

How Maine Wins

Shea ended the regular season on injured reserve, but if the Mariners can get him back soon, he would be a valuable asset.  He led the team in goals (25), shorthanded goals (three), and empty-netters (six); was tied for first in game-winning goals (four); was second in shots on goal (159); and was third in total points (54).

Both of Maine’s goalies are solid, François Brassard with a 2.73 GAA and 0.903 save percentage, and DiPietro with a 2.61 GAA and 0.918 save percentage.  DiPietro has only a slight edge there, but in the regular season series with Reading, he was victorious in both his starts while Brassard was served a pair of losses.  DiPietro should be the go-to guy in most of these crucial games.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Carrie Roberts covers the Adirondack Thunder for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAdkThunder.

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