READING, Pa. – The Reading Royals hosted the Newfoundland Growlers for game two of the best-of-seven North Division Final series Sunday. The Royals had absolutely dominated in game one with a 7-3 shellacking over the Growlers. On Sunday, Reading was looking to build on that and extend their series lead while Newfoundland wanted to grind out a win and tie it up.
It was the Growlers who got on the board first Sunday when Ben Finkelstein scored a power play goal. Finkelstein passed the puck to Zach O’Brien, who passed it right back, and Finkelstein’s slapshot beat Royals goaltender Pat Nagle at 11:19 of the first period.
O’Brien picked up his second point of the night 94 seconds into the second period when his shot from the faceoff dot beat Nagle five-hole.
Just over three minutes later, O’Brien picked up his third point of the night. Finkelstein passed to O’Brien from behind the net, and O’Brien passed across the ice to Tyler Boland, whose slapper beat Nagle blocker-side. It was Boland’s league-leading ninth goal of the postseason (tied with Toledo Walleye’s Brandon Hawkins).
The Growlers found themselves leading 3-0 heading into the third.
The Royals were not out of it yet, however. Defenseman Dominic Cormier backhanded a pass to forward Kevin Conley standing in front of the net. The puck bounced off Conley’s stick and past Growlers netminder Keith Petruzzelli into the net.
Newfoundland’s Derian Plouffe was able to seal the deal with an empty-netter with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Reading’s Brennan Saulnier whiffed on a shot, and Plouffe picked up the puck and fired down the length of the ice into the empty net for a final score of 4-1.
Special teams proved to be a game-changer Sunday night. Newfoundland went 2-for-3 with the man advantage after failing to convert on any of their chances the previous game. They ranked first in the league on the power play during the regular season at 27.9% (29.9% at home, 26.2% on the road).
The Growlers were also perfect on the penalty kill Sunday. They tied Rapid City for first place on the PK during the regular season with 85.1% (87.2% at home, 83.2% on the road).
The teams will travel to St. John’s for three games at Mary Brown’s Centre Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. All games are 7 pm NT (reminder: that’s 5:30 pm ET).
If necessary, the teams would travel back to Reading for games six and seven Saturday, May 14th and Monday, May 16th.
The Royals went 5-1-0-0 in Newfoundland during the regular season, but they were also winless at home against the Growlers. As Reading’s game one home win proved, the postseason can be a whole different story. Don’t be surprised to see both teams pick up victories in Newfoundland. These are the top two teams in the conference, and anything less than seven games would be a shock.
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