By Julie Pelchar
READING, Pa. – The Sovereign Center and the Penn Street block party were abuzz with the news that Reading lost goaltender Cody Rudkowsky prior to Sunday’s opening faceoff in the Eastern Conference Finals against Florida.
Even Royals coach Derek Clancey, while dashing through the concourse to find his seat for the pregame warm-ups, shrugged his shoulders and grinned as if to say, “This ought to be interesting.”
Interesting is a mild term to describe the 36 hours prior to Game 3, which Reading ended up winning 6-0 behind rookie Steve Belanger, who played his first pro game as Rudkowsky’s replacement.
Clancey first learned of Rudkowsky’s call-up to Worcester of the American Hockey League minutes after the Royals had lost Friday’s Game 2 at Florida’s TECO Arena.
Clancey broke the news to his players two hours later, when the team arrived at a Fort Lauderdale hotel for their Saturday morning flight.
“You obviously don’t expect that phone call at this time of the year,” Clancey said. “So after that first initial shock my reaction was to worry about how the team would react.
“Once we got over it, we got up the next morning and moved on.”
Rudkowsky played for the IceCats Saturday night, stopping 28 shots in a 3-0 loss to Hartford in the Atlantic Division Finals.
Because banged-up starter Curtis Sanford was cleared to play for Worcester’s Game 3 Sunday, which it lost 4-3 in overtime, the IceCats told Clancey at 9:30 a.m. Sunday the Royals could have their MVP for their 1:05 game.
But it was logistically impossible, and Reading couldn’t get the goalie back in time.
Royals general manager Ray Delia was booking a flight for Rudkowsky after the game, so it looks as though he’ll be in Reading for Wednesday’s Game 4 at the Sovereign Center.