By Matt Malinowski
TRENTON, N.J. – Reading Royals forward Graig Mischler (picured) stood a few feet away from the locker room door, his expression and body language clear indicators of the demoralization of defeat.
But his voice, hardly booming but clear and strong, emphasized the realization that he and his teammates know victory is attainable.
The Royals were a few minutes removed from a crushing loss, one in which they dominated much of the game but dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Trenton Titans Wednesday night to fall behind 2-1 in the best-of-five ECHL North Division finals.
Now victory must be attained or Reading’s season is over.
The Royals and Titans face off in Game 4 Friday at 7:30 in Trenton. If the Titans win, they will move on to the face the Alaska Aces in the National Conference finals. If the Royals win, Game 5 will be Saturday night at 7:05 at the Sovereign Center.
It certainly looked as if Reading was on the verge of emerging victorious Wednesday night.
The Royals poured it on in overtime and applied terrific pressure and generated quality chances. But one rush later, Trenton’s Matt Zultek took his own rebound and scored on a wraparound to give the Titans the win.
Such defeats often have a carryover effect. Mischler hardly thinks that’s an issue.
“This is not the time to be afraid of anything like that,” Mischler said. “We need to draw upon the fact that we did play well in the overtime and we did have our chances. One bounce here or there and we could be the ones celebrating.
“But you have to give credit to them. They bent but they didn’t break. It’s a testament to them. They were able to capitalize on their opportunity. They are a great hockey team over there.”
Reading also has shown it’s a pretty formidable foe. The Royals were better than the Titans at five-on-five almost all of Game 3. With the exception of a sloppy few minutes late in the second period, the Royals were pretty sharp.
It’s easier said that done, but the overtime setback needs to be forgotten. Game 3 is in the books. Can’t be changed.
The only thing that can be changed is the momentum of the series if Reading wins tonight.
Mischler believes if the Royals have another strong effort, the outcome will be different. He said that while standing near that locker room door with his back against a wall.
How appropriate, considering the Royals’ current situation.