READING, PA – April 20, 2022 – Trailing 3-0 with under three minutes to play, the Mariners scored a pair of late goals to make the Reading Royals sweat, but the Royals held on for a 3-2 game one win and 1-0 series lead over the Mariners in the North Division Semifinals. It was the first ever postseason game in Mariners club history.
The Mariners were granted a pair of early power play chances in the first period but couldn’t convert. Reading would then take advantage of their first chance, as Kenny Hausinger tipped an offering from Patrick Bajkov to the right of Stefanos Lekkas to give the Royals the first goal of the series. Hausinger’s tally at 12:06 of the first was the only goal of the opening 20 minutes.
Brayden Low scored a pair of goals in the middle frame to build the Reading lead to 3-0. At 10:31, Low came down the left side and slapped one past Lekkas to double the Royal lead. Reading’s Brennan Saulnier was assessed a five minute major and game misconduct for spearing, but the Mariners squandered a three minute power play when they took a high-sticking call in the midst of it. Low got his second of the period with just 40 seconds left when he made a backhand move in tight that slid under Lekkas. Reading pelted 17 shots in the 2nd period, to Maine’s eight.
The Mariners were stronger in the third, but couldn’t solve Logan Flodell until 2:40 was left on the clock. With the game at 4-on-4, the Mariners pulled Lekkas and Zach Malatesta’s shot from the point banked in off the post behind Flodell. Pascal Laberge and Cam Askew picked up helpers. As play returned to 5-on-5, the Mariners pulled the goaltender again and Malatesta got another shot through, this time tipped by Nick Master with just 44 seconds to play, making it a one goal game. The Mariners had a significant chance to tie the game when a late hooking penalty got called against Thomas Ebbing, but the Royals were able to survive the final 36 seconds.
Flodell made 28 saves to earn the win while Lekkas stopped 33 of 36. The Royals lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0. The home team has won all seven games the Mariners and Royals have played in 2021-22.
The Mariners and Royals will play Game 2 on Friday night at 7 PM at Santander Arena. The series then shifts to Portland for games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) next week. Game 3, the first home playoff game in Mariners history, is Thursday, April 28th at 7 PM. Game 4 will be Friday, April 29th at 7:15 PM. Tickets can be purchased at MarinersOfMaine.com/playoffs, by calling the Trusted Choice Box Office at 207-775-3458, or by visiting the box office inside the Cross Insurance Arena.