READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals and Newfoundland Growlers began their best-of-seven North Division Final series Saturday in Reading. During the regular season, the Growlers were the dominant team at Santander Arena, winning all three games played there. The postseason is quickly showing to be quite different, however, as the Royals absolutely dominated in a 7-3 rout over the visitors in game one of the series.
Reading’s Frank DiChiara wasted no time getting on the board, scoring only 2:13 into the game. Garrett Cecere picked up the puck along the boards in Newfoundland’s zone and passed across the ice to DiChiara, who fired it past goaltender Keith Petruzzelli. DiChiara then followed up with another goal only 3:41 later, this time on the power play.
Rookie Kevin Conley quickly added another goal 1:19 later when he fired home the rebound of a Jackson Cressey shot, and the Growlers found themselves in a 3-0 hole only 7:13 into the game.
Dominic Cormier added yet another goal for the Royals later in the period, chasing Petruzelli, who was replaced by fellow rookie Rylan Parenteau. The play started with none other than Jacob Pritchard, who had the Growlers’ number in the regular season, racking up 14 points against them. Mike Chen received a beautiful backhand pass from Pritchard, then gave the puck to Cormier for his first goal of the postseason.
Parenteau was able to hold off the Royals for the remainder of the period. For the first time in their history, the Growlers went into the first intermission trailing 4-0.
Only 30 seconds into the middle frame, it got even worse for the visitors. Reading’s Patrick Bajkov passed the puck to Trevor Gooch, who was parked in front of the net waiting to fire it home. Newfoundland now had a five-goal deficit to climb out of.
The Growlers’ Gordie Green ended goaltender Pat Nagle‘s shutout bid at 13:21 of the second period, immediately resulting in a scuffle in front of the net between Newfoundland’s Noel Hoefenmayer and Reading’s Brad Morrison. That was only the first of several fights we’re likely to see this series.
Sure enough, there was a second fight only minutes later, this time between two Brennan’s (Newfoundland’s Brennan Kapcheck and Reading’s Brennan Saulnier).
That was the end of the fighting, but it wasn’t the end of the scoring. Gooch received a pass from Cecere and put the Royals back up by five to close out the second period.
The Growlers did mount a bit of a comeback in the final frame, with goals from Isaac Johnson and Marc Johnstone, but it was too little too late as both goals came in the latter half of the period.
Gooch completed the scoring (and his hat trick) with an empty-netter with 1:17 remaining, for a final score of 7-3. He ended the game with five points (three goals, two assists).
The teams meet again Sunday at Santander Arena in Reading before heading to St. John’s for games three, four, and five (if necessary). The Growlers went 1-4-1-0 at home versus Reading during the regular season, so they’ll want a win under their belts before heading back to Canada. A 2-0 series deficit isn’t insurmountable, but it will be difficult with an opponent like the Royals.
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