By Matt Malinowski
TOLEDO, Ohio – The building was half empty, but the decibel level could make one go half deaf.
The fans in the Toledo Sports Arena, a building small in size yet big on old-time charm, were in a frenzy after the Toledo Storm scored on the man advantage to tie the game about midway through the third period.
Less than a minute later, the Reading Royals hit the mute button.
Reading’s Jeff Miles (pictured) threw a shot at the net that deflected off a Storm defenseman and past goalie Scott Fankhouser. The Royals made all the noise the rest of the way in a 5-2 victory to win the ECHL North Division semifinal series in four games.
Reading will host Trenton in Game 1 of the North Division Finals on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Sovereign Center. Game 2 will be Saturday.
“When they scored that power-play goal, you have to come back with a big shift after that,” Miles said. “Otherwise we would have been on our heels for quite a while.
“It was a lucky bounce. I didn’t do anything special. But those are the things that can win you a series.”
What also helps is when top performers produce in key situations. The Royals got a tremendous lift from Miles and Ryan Kinasewich, who were both playing in their first game of the series after being sent down from the Manchester Monarchs, Reading’s American Hockey League affiliate.
Miles finished with two goals. Kinasewich had a goal and two assists. They played on a line with 20-year-old Rob Hisey, who chipped in an assist. Together, the three created a plethora of quality scoring chances.
Yes, they got some breaks. But breaks happen when players continuously make things happen.
Kinasewich opened the scoring 2:45 into the second period when he broke in with Miles on a two-on-one. Kinasewich’s wrister was saved by Fankhouser, but the rebound went off a Storm defenseman and in to make it 1-0.
Toledo got a big break of its own when Royals defenseman Mikko Viitanen shot a puck into his own net to break goalie Barry Brust, who had recorded two straight shutouts entering the game.
Reading took a 2-1 lead with 5:41 left in the second period when Cail MacLean rifled a slapper from the right circle past Fankhouser.
The building exploded when Nick Parillo tied it with 10:13 left in the third.
Miles calmed the Storm shortly after that.
He added an insurance goal on the power play with 4:55 left.
Reading played short-handed the final 3:57, but the only goal scored was an empty-netter by the Royals’ Preston Mizzi with 15 seconds left.
With that, the only noise in the building came from Reading’s bench.
“To bounce back the way we did after they scored certainly was a big key,” Royals coach Derek Clancey said. “We battled hard and we had a real strong third period. We got the job done.”