PORTLAND, ME. – After dropping the first two games of the series in Reading, the Maine Mariners had a chance to redeem themselves at home Thursday night.
In each of the first two games, the Reading Royals controlled play early on, building 3-0 leads and leaving the Mariners in holes they couldn’t climb out of. Game three instantly had a different feel to it, with Maine in control for much of the opening period.
Conner Bleackley gave the Mariners their first lead of the series at 9:29 of the first period when he tipped in a shot from Michael Kim.
The Mariners didn’t let up and closed out the period with a 12-4 shot advantage and the 1-0 lead.
Reading’s Kenny Hausinger breathed some life into his team with his rebound goal at 3:14 of the middle frame, tying the game at 1-1.
Mathew Santos regained the lead for Maine with a breakaway goal a little over a minute later.
The Royals could not be deterred, however, and came right back with goals from Jacob Pritchard and Brad Morrison. Pritchard scored on a rebound of a Trevor Gooch shot. Gooch had stolen the puck at center ice and nearly had a breakaway but was stopped by Maine goaltender Stefanos Lekkas. Gooch picked up the rebound and fired it home. Morrison’s goal came on a tip of Patrick McNally‘s shot less than two minutes later, and the Royals took their first lead of the game.
Cameron Askew tied it at 3-3 just over three minutes later when he deflected Reid Stefanson‘s shot past Royals netminder Logan Flodell from a nearly impossible angle at the corner of the net.
As if five goals in the second period weren’t enough, Reading added a sixth with Garrett McFadden‘s goal at 18:19.
After such a sluggish start to the game, the Royals had taken over in the second and headed into the third period with a 4-3 lead.
Once again, the Mariners found themselves in a hole in the final frame, but this time it was not insurmountable.
It only took 1:14 for Stefanson to tie it up, getting the puck past Flodell’s glove and bouncing it in off the goal post.
The score remained knotted at 4-4 until late in the third when Santos picked up his second goal of the night. Maine captain Connor Doherty took the initial shot and Flodell made the save, but Santos picked up the rebound and shot it into the open net for the lead.
The Royals pulled Flodell for an extra attacker, but they were not able to capitalize. Jeremy Brodeur, who replaced Lekkas for the third period, stopped all six shots he faced, and the Mariners closed out game three with a 5-4 victory.
Several players had a multi-point game. For Maine, Doherty had three assists; Santos had two goals; Stefanson had a goal and assist; and Askew had a Gordie Howe hat trick. For Reading, McNally and Brayden Low each had two assists; and Pritchard had a goal and assist.
The teams meet again Friday and Saturday nights in Portland for games four and five. If Maine wins at least one of those games, the series will shift back to Reading for game six Monday and game seven (if needed) Wednesday.
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