By Josh Katzowitz
Reading Eagle Correspondent
CINCINNATI -The Reading Royals were penalized 10 times against the best power play team in the league. They had to recover from a sour experience in Game 4 of the North Division finals only 24 hours prior. And they had to do it in a building where the Cyclones had lost just four regular season games all year.
As the pumping fist and exuberant eyes of Reading general manager Gordon Kaye would attest after Brock Hooton’s late goal gave the Royals a 1-0 win in Game 5, none of those disadvantages mattered Thursday at U.S. Bank Arena.
Instead, Reading escaped with the win, earned a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and took solace in the opportunity that will present itself Saturday — a chance to eliminate top-seeded Cincinnati at the Sovereign Center.
It left Kaye, who ripped off his tie and slapped hands with coach Karl Taylor, and the Royals extremely excited.
“Unbelievable hockey game,” Taylor said. “A 1-0 game at that point in the season? Wow. We were very fortunate. That’s one of the best power play teams I’ve ever coached against. But Danny Taylor (pictured) was our best player on the ice tonight.”
Karl Taylor wasn’t lying.
Despite facing a multitude of Cincinnati power plays — including seven in the first period that allowed the Cyclones to have a man advantage for a total of 11:25 — Danny Taylor stopped all 42 shots sent his way.
After allowing four goals in Game 4, including a disputed one to Cincinnati’s Thomas Beauregard that the Royals claimed he kicked in, this was the kind of performance that made his teammates proud.
“I thought I got in my own way (Wednesday),” Danny Taylor said. “Tonight, I just let things happen. I knew we were going to get one. My mindset was to shut the door. We had to get the first one, but I knew the guys would get it eventually. It was kind of them to leave it until five minutes left in the third to do it.”
That’s when Patrik Hersley and Hooton helped secure the win for Reading.
After Cincinnati’s T.J. McElroy was sent to the penalty box 14:58 into the third period for interference — the only penalty called in the final period — Hersley set up Hooton perfectly.
Holding the puck, he faked a shot on goal and found a wide-open Hooton across the ice. Cyclones goalie Cedrick Desjardins couldn’t recover in time and allowed Hooton to slap the game-winning goal past him with 4:12 to play.
“It was kind of ironic that we scored on a power play after the number we gave them,” said Hooton, whose team had to subsist on six power-play chances. “Our power play hasn’t been great this series, but that particular one, we had great puck movement. It was Hersley’s passing. He did the half-slap shot, and their forward bit on it and went down. I just wanted to make sure not to miss it. I could have just slid it in, but I wanted to make sure, so I went in high and hard.”
Now, the Royals will try to make sure they don’t have to return here for a potential Game 7 Monday.
“They’re facing an elimination game,” Karl Taylor said. “This series is far from over. That’s the best team in the league, and they’re the best team for a reason. They’ll play their best game on Saturday guaranteed.”