By Matt Malinowski
Special To The Toledo Blade
READING, Pa. – The Toledo Storm played, for lack of a better or catchier phrase, the perfect road hockey game.
The Storm controlled the pace. Toledo outworked the opposition. The crowd was dead, unless it was griping about a call.
Toledo was rewarded for its solid effort with a 1-0 win over the Reading Royals last night at the Sovereign Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five ECHL North Division semifinal series.
Game 2 will be Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Sovereign Center.
The Storm entered last night’s game as the loser of four straight against the Royals. That included a 2-1 setback last Thursday.
But Storm coach Nick Vitucci came away from that loss encouraged that his team matched up well with the Royals.
“I think the players got it in the back of their minds that they could play with them,” Vitucci said. “We had a big emotional win [last] Friday to get into the playoffs, and since then our focus has been on the Reading Royals. We are happy about this one.”
But it takes three to win the series, and Vitucci quickly tempered the enthusiasm with the realization that it won’t get any easier the rest of the way.
This promised to be a tight and low scoring series, and Game 1 was case in point.
What often makes the biggest difference are special teams and goaltending, and Toledo got solid play in both areas. Goalie Scott Fankhouser (pictured) made 32 saves for the shutout and the Storm thwarted eight Royals power-play attempts.
Toledo got the game’s only goal when Reading turned the puck over at its offensive blue line, which resulted in an odd-man break. Jason Maleyko fed a pass to Carl Mallette, who wristed a shot past Barry Brust to give Toledo a 1-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Vitucci said. “You can’t explain how happy we were with that goal and with this win. But we are going to enjoy this right now and tomorrow morning we focus for Game 2.”