Royals can’t sweep Jackals as late goals cost them

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
Ian O'Conner notched his second goal of the postseason Friday night. (Candice Monhollan)

Ian O’Conner notched his second goal of the postseason Friday night. (Candice Monhollan)

ELMIRA, N.Y. – The Reading Royals looked to keep their hot streak alive and complete a three-game sweep of the No. 1-seeded Elmira Jackals Friday night. Unfortunately for the Royals, the Jackals weren’t going to go away that easily as they defeated the Royals by a score of 5-2 after some late goals in the third period.

“I think it was a pretty fast-paced game from the start,” alternate captain Casey Haines said. “They had to win to stay alive and they came out flying. I think we matched that intensity in the first and even the second. They just got a few more bounces than us. Their goals there at the end, three of them were off skates and right to them. They had the hockey gods tonight and hopefully we get them tomorrow.”

From the drop of the puck, it was noticeable this game was going to be a fast and furious pace as the Jackals tried to survive another day.

“I thought it was their best game,” head coach Larry Courville said. “They really came out hard and I thought we matched that intensity very well in the first. The best team won. We gave ourselves a chance going into the third period and we wanted to go ahead, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way tonight.”

Goaltender Mark Owuya, who was thought to possibly be headed for Toronto, was on the team and received the start. Through the first two games, he only allowed three goals, but Saturday night was different as a couple bad bounces cost them the game and sent four pucks behind him.

“If we play our game, we’re fine,” Haines said. “It’s when we give up those point-blank shots. Mark is a good goalie, but even the best goalie in the world is not going to stop all of them. We need to be stronger defensively. We got a little lackadaisical there and the scoreboard showed it.”

Just as in the first two games of the series, the Royals struck first. A tic-tac-toe play between Ethan Cox, Haines and Ian O’Connor led to the game’s first goal at 9:50 of the first. It was O’Connor’s second in the playoffs.

A match of Matt Caruana against Mike Radja led to the tying goal with 3:05 left in the period. Caruana almost stripped Radja, but the Jackal was quicker as he regained control of the puck and skated around Caruana and went in alone on Owuya and ripped one past him.

The Royals weren’t finished. They received a power play late, and although they could convert on that, they did at even strength with 3.7 seconds remaining in the first. Zach McKelvie wristed a shot from the point and Olivier Labelle deflected it by goaltender Brian Stewart to give the Royals a 2-1 lead.

Some 4-on-4 action with Labelle and Rob Bellamy in the sin bins led to the Jackals tying things up once more. Craig Rivet took a feed from Nick Dineen, cut across the crease and roofed one above Owuya at 3:36 of the second.

The Jackals began peppering Owyua after that, out-shooting the Royals an alarming 16-2 in the period, but Owuya was there to make the saves and a couple defensemen helped out by throwing their bodies in front of the shots.

Through the series to that point, the Royals went into the third period with the lead. A new dilemma faced them as they headed in tied with the Jackals – a team known to pour on pressure in the final frame.

The pace started to become quicker with five and a half minutes remaining in the third as the Jackals were desperately trying to avoid getting swept. The Royals were doing everything in their power – tying up sticks, blocking shots – to keep the Jackals from getting the lead.

It wouldn’t be enough as a turnaround shot in the right circle from Dineen gave the Jackals their first lead in the game – and the series – with 3:43 left in regulation.

The deadly Radja scored his second of the night 60 seconds later to give the Jackals a 4-2 lead and seal things for the Jackals.

Bellamy extended the lead when he added an empty-net goal with 59.3 seconds left.

The Royals now will look to close out the series Saturday night in Game 4.

“There’s always going to be highs and lows,” Courville said. “We had a couple highs early and now it’s a low. We have to stay even keel. We have to remember what we did in that game and what we could have done better. We have to respond tomorrow and put this one behind us.”

Owuya’s status is still an uncertainty heading into Saturday’s game.

“It’s still up in the air,” Courville said. “Not sure what’s going to happen. We’d love to have him and we’ll see what happens.”

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Categories: ECHL, Ice Hockey, Kelly Cup Playoffs, Sports

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