Special to the Toledo Blade
READING, Pa. – The Toledo Storm again put together a solid defensive effort. Kept sustained pressure to a minimum. Had the better of the scoring chances.
But in series such as these, when every game promises to be tight and hard fought, one little mistake can erase a night of solid play.
That happened to the Storm Saturday night.
Toledo turned the puck over in its defensive zone and it went to Reading forward Mike Sandbeck (pictured), who slid a shot past Storm goalie Scott Fankhouser to give the Royals a 1-0 win to even the best-of-five ECHL North Division semifinal at one game apiece.
“That’s the great part about playoff hockey,” Storm coach Nick Vitucci said. “One little bounce, one little bad hop, and that’s the ballgame.
“But we set out here to split to try to go home for a two-out-of-three series, with two of the games in our building, and we accomplished that. I thought we played hard and good enough to win, but we didn’t.”
Game 3 is Sunday at the Sports Arena in Toledo.
Reading goalie Barry Brust made 31 saves for the shutout. He kept Reading in the game early and preserved its lead late.
The Storm had plenty of chances to take early command, but Brust came up with several huge saves.
Brust also got a little help when Toledo’s Scooter Smith collected a rebound and hit the post with 6:15 left in the first period.
Toledo’s leading scorer, Carl Mallette, was robbed by Brust a little more than a minute later. Less than a minute after that, Brust stopped Rick Judson on a short-handed breakaway.
Things got ugly with 6.6 seconds left in the first when Brust was knocked down and several scrapes ensued.
Reading’s Jon Francisco tangled with Toledo’s Mike James; Reading’s Reagan Rome fought Toledo’s Steve Slonina; and Reading’s Graig Mischler fought with Toledo’s Paul Ballantyne.
James received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After Sandbeck’s goal, Brust robbed Scooter Smith with 2:28left and then made a terrific save on a wrister by Mallette 26 seconds later.
“Brust has been like that all year,” Vitucci said. “You just can’t say the goalie had a lucky game. He’s been spectacular all season.”
Toledo goalie Fankhouser also had another strong effort and finished with 28 saves.