Forward Jacob Pritchard ensured Reading’s season would not end in the ECHL North Division semifinals.
Pritchard scored what proved to be the game- and series-winning goal in the third period on Monday night at Santander Arena, lifting the Royals to a 2-1 victory over Maine in Game 6 to complete a 4-2 series win over the Mariners.
“Great job by Pritchard,” Reading coach Kirk MacDonald said. “He steps up in a huge moment and scores.”
Pritchard scored the decisive goal during a Royals’ power play midway through the third. He gathered the puck at the point before patiently skating toward the net and shooting.
“I had a lot of time,” Pritchard said. “(I) decided to shoot it and (I) beat him short side.”
The goal was just enough to propel Reading to a win in a game that featured lots of aggressive and physical play. Maine goaltender Callum Booth was stout, allowing just two goals while making 31 saves.
“Sometimes the first round is the hardest one to win because you feel that pressure, especially as the No. 1 seed,” MacDonald said. “It’s supposed to be easy and it’s never easy.”
The Mariners opened the scoring midway through the first period with a goal from forward Nick Master. The goal was the only scoring in what was otherwise a rough-and-tumble period as the two teams combined for five penalties.
The Royals tied it midway through the second period when forward Trevor Gooch scored from just outside the crease. Forwards Kenny Hausinger and Frank DiChiara were credited with the assists.
After controlling the first two periods, Reading faced a third-period surge from Maine, especially in the final five minutes. The Mariners generated 15 shots in the third period and effectively possessed the puck in the offensive zone, but were held scoreless.
“I thought we managed it well,” MacDonald said. “We found a way to get through it.”
The Royals relied on stellar play from veteran goaltender Pat Nagle, who returned from his loan to Lehigh Valley prior to Game 6. Nagle faced 31 shots and made 30 saves.
“I was excited to get back (to Reading),” Nagle said. “We had a great game tonight.”
The Royals will continue their playoff run in the ECHL North Division finals, where they will face the winner of a ECHL North Division semifinal between Newfoundland and Trois-Rivières. Those teams meet Tuesday in Game 7. Reading will host Game 1 of the second-round series, with a time and date to be announced.
“You definitely just want to win championships when you get to this time of year,” Pritchard said. “So it’s pretty cool to see everybody rally together.”
Source: Berkshire mont