READING, Pa. – Riley Gill’s 27 save shutout and Evan Barlow’s goal and assist were enough to help the Reading Royals send the Stockton Thunder to a 4-0 defeat in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals before 4,693 fans at Sovereign Center on Sunday.
The Thunder, playing in its second road game in less than 24 hours, suffered their first shutout loss in the playoffs since Game 5 of the opening round at Las Vegas. Reading scored three times in the first period and the Thunder went 0-of-3 on the power play.
The series now shifts to Stockton Arena, where the Thunder is 8-2 at home in the postseason.
STOCKTON VS. READING– KELLY CUP FINALS (all times listed PT)
(Reading leads, 2-0)
Game 1: Stockton 5 at Reading 6 (OT)
Game 2: Stockton 0 at Reading 4
Game 3: Reading at Stockton – Tuesday, May 21 – 7:00 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 4: Reading at Stockton – Friday, May 24 – 7:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 5: Reading at Stockton – Saturday, May 25 – 7:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena) *
Game 6: Stockton at Reading – Tuesday, May 28 – 4:05 p.m. (Sovereign Center) *
Game 7: Stockton at Reading – Wednesday, May 29 – 4:05 p.m. (Sovereign Center) *
“I thought we played and executed better tonight in the first period but didn’t finish,” said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. “Down 2-0, we still felt pretty good about ourselves. [The third goal] was the difference. We had a lot of clock left but a big mountain to climb. We feel very confident that we can win every game we play. Going home is going to give us more confidence.”
Just like in Game 1, the Thunder earned a chance to strike with an early goal but squandered it after the Royals killed off Gill’s delay of game penalty for flipping the puck over the glass in Reading’s zone.
Alex Berry put the Royals up 1-0 at 8:32 when he converted Barlow’s feed to the goal mouth while in transition. Brett Flemming followed with a blast through traffic, from the blueline, expanding the Reading bulge to 2-0 with 6:27 left after the Thunder fell short of clearing the puck twice in the defensive zone.
Thunder defenseman Nathan Deck then was whistled for a roughing penalty while tussling with T.J. Syner in the Thunder zone. With only a second to spare on the penalty, Reading went up 3-0 with 1:37 left on Syner’s deflection at the goal mouth, following a wrist shot by Brock Shelgren at the left circle.
The Thunder followed up with several scoring opportunities to get back in the game and also needed a highlight reel, sprawling save by Olivier Roy in the second period to keep the comeback alive. He stopped Yannick Tifu’s rebound by desperately reaching out with his stick and getting a piece of the puck at the left post.
Reading survived Stockton’s wave of offensive chances and capitalized on Barlow’s sixth goal of the postseason with 4:49 left in the period when he collected a rebound at the bottom of the right circle and deflected a sharp angled shot through Roy’s pads.
Roy, who was 10-5 in 15 straight playoff appearances and saw 49 shots last night, was replaced by Tyler Bunz in the third period.
Bunz collected seven saves to close the game.
“It’s a race to four,” said Thomas. “They have a head start but that doesn’t concern us. What concerns us is playing to our potential and getting the job done. It’ll be great to get a big crowd at home, make it an intimidating place for them and an exciting place for us. We have to come out and play with the confidence and swagger you need at home this time of year.”
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Ryan Constant and Cameron Abney…Reading had the lead in shots at 34-27 … the loss broke a six game win streak the Thunder held in Game 2 scenarios (9-5 lifetime) … the last time Stockton trailed 2-0 in a series was in the 2010 Conference Finals against Idaho and they answered with back to back wins at home.
The series shifts to Stockton Arena for the first ever Kelly Cup Finals game in California, starting Tuesday for Game 3 at 7:00 p.m. (1280 AM KWSX/StocktonThunder.com).
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