ELMIRA, N.Y. - The Elmira Jackals jumped out to an early lead against the Reading Royals for the third straight meeting, but fell victim to a pair of early third-period goals in Wednesday's 3-1 loss at First Arena. The win was Reading's seventh in a row and dropped the Jackals' record to 22-28-8 on the season.
The first period was a battle of attrition with both teams playing stout defense. The Jackals limited Reading to just seven shots on goal while the Royals were even stingier. Elmira managed five shots in the frame, but it took only three for the Jackals to break through and grab a 1-0 lead. In his first game back after a two-game trip to the American Hockey League with Utica, Kyle Bushee was the catalyst for Mike Vaskivuo's goal at 9:54. Bushee's point shot created a rebound in front of goalie Brandon Anderson that Vaskivuo jammed home for his 17th goal of the year. Rob Bellamy grabbed the secondary assist. Neil Conway turned away each of the seven shots he faced to send Elmira into the second in the driver's seat.
The entirety of the first period was played five-on-five but in the second each team was awarded a power play chance. Elmira was first up and couldn't build on its lead, then Reading used its first of two on the night to cash in and tie the score. Yannick Tifu worked the puck from the right-wing wall to Sean Wiles between the faceoff circles. Wiles unleashed a quick wrist shot that beat Conway low at 13:09. Elmira nearly reclaimed the lead moments later when the rebound of a Bellamy shot kicked out to Vaskivuo in the left-wing circle. Vaskivuo got the puck back to the net quickly but Anderson scrambled to his right and make a key save to keep the score tied heading into the third.
The Royals worked quickly to claim their first lead of the night. A Matt Campanale point shot was deflected in front of Conway and took a Royals bounce right to the stick of Domenic Monardo. The rookie potted his 21st of the season with 4:58 gone by in the frame, and Aaron Gens followed up less than three minutes later to put the Royals ahead by two. Gens got the puck high on the right wing and sifted a shot past a screened Conway for his fifth goal of the season.
Conway was saddled with the loss on a night when he turned in 27 saves. The Jackals ended the game 0-for-1 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.
Mark your calendars! The Jackals return to home ice on Friday, March 14 to take on the Cincinnati Cyclones. M & T Bank is sponsoring a Thunderstick giveaway so get here early to claim yours. Don't forget that groups of 10 or more who book in advance receive discounts off the box office price and preferred seating based on availability. Call 607-734-7825 to get your group outing booked.