CINCINNATI, Ohio – Joel Champagne tipped home the game-winner with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Reading Royals (11-5) to a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones (9-7) in front of 2,811 at U.S. Bank Arena on Friday night. The triumph gave Reading a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals.
It didn't take long for the Royals to get out to a two-goal lead. Just 21 seconds into the first frame, Alex Berry lifted a shot over Cincinnati goalie Michael Houser (L, 21 saves, 9-7) from the bottom of the left circle after receiving a pass from Kirk MacDonald. 41 seconds later Evan Barlow put his team up 2-0, their largest lead of the series, with a wrist shot of his own from nearly the same spot on the ice. The teams skated evenly for the remainder of the period.
The Cyclones got their first tally of the night at 14:52 of the middle stanza. John McFarland launched a slap shot from the top of the left circle that trickled through the legs of goaltender Riley Gill (W, 27 saves, 8-3); Dan Eves found the puck behind Gill and knocked it into the back of the net – cutting the Royals lead in half. The score held at 2-1 as the teams headed into the second intermission.
With 8:51 remaining in the game, Cincinnati capitalized on a power play to even the score. After a bench minor penalty for too-many men on the ice was called against Reading, Mike Pelech fired a one-timer from Josh McFadden past Gill's stick side to knot the game at two goals apiece. Unfortunately, in the final 11 seconds, Yannick Tifu chopped a loose puck toward the net and Joel Champagne was able to tip it past Houser for the game-winner. Reading held on to win it by a 3-2 final.