By Matt Malinowski
READING, Pa. – Reading Royals forward Preston Mizzi (pictured), a few minutes after a slight self-deprecating stab at himself for finally having a game worthy of a postgame interview, quickly shifted into a serious mode when asked about his team’s performance.
He acknowledged it was the Royals’ best game of the postseason. He agreed that much of the night the Royals dictated the tempo and were a step quicker than the Trenton Titans.
But a deep breath later Mizzi confessed that things still need to get better, that the Royals’ 4-2 win over the Titans in the ECHL North Division finals opener Friday at the Sovereign Center was not one to file under perfection.
“We haven’t put together a full 60 minutes yet,” said Mizzi, who scored two goals. “If we would do that we are a pretty scary team.”
Game 2 is Saturday at 7:05 at the Sovereign Center.
Picking apart the Royals after a big win against a big rival seems a tad harsh and a bit unfair. And truthfully, the majority of their effort deserves praise.
The Royals displayed a much more diligent work ethic much of the night, which resulted in turnovers and subsequent scoring chances.
Still, the Royals didn’t exactly get out of the gate strong. They had several breakdowns early that were erased by goalie Barry Brust. And in the third they sat back a bit and let the Titans come to them.
But overall it was a very, very good effort.
The Royals dominated the second half of the first period and got on the board when Mizzi scored short-handed off a faceoff with 10:43 left.
Reading made it 2-0 with 7:48 left in the first when Beau Geisler snuck in the from the point and beat goalie Andrew Allen with a wrist shot.
Trenton struck quickly in the second when Rick Kowalsky collected a puck along the boards and skated in front of the net before beating Brust just 36 seconds in.
Rob Hisey scored with 15:56 left and Mizzi ripped home a wrister a little more than four minutes later to put the Royals up 4-1.
The Royals had all the sustained pressure. They had a plethora of odd-man breaks. They were outworking the Titans every shift.
The Titans had just three shots in the second period. The downside is they scored on two of them.
The Royals’ same determination slipped a bit in the third period. But teams that are up two goals in the third period in the postseason naturally take their foot off the gas and sit back a bit.
Overall this was the type of performance the Royals had been searching for all postseason. Now it just needs to be a little fine-tuned a bit.
“I thought it was our best game in the playoffs so far, no question,” Royals coach Derek Clancey said. “It wasn’t a dominating game. We worked hard and got some bounces in the first two periods that they didn’t get. Hopefully it will continue to go the same way.”
“We know that it is going to take our best every night to beat Trenton,” Mizzi said. “We know they are going to come at us harder the next game. We are going to stress coming out, working hard and hopefully get the lead again.”