TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye looked for a comeback victory Sunday evening at the Huntington Center, but two third period goals were not enough as the Reading Royals skated to a 5-2 victory to sweep the season series with Toledo.
Keeghan Howdeshell and Brandon Hawkins each scored in the final four minutes of regulation to put the Fish within striking distance, but Reading’s three first period goals were too much for Toledo to overcome. The Walleye move to 33-12-1-2 with the loss and sit at 1-2-0 halfway through their six-game homestand.
The Royals jumped out to an early lead in the first period, scoring three times in just under five minutes of game time. Brad Morrison put Reading on the board first, taking advantage of a Cole Fraser tripping penalty for a power play goal at 6:58. Trevor Gooch and Patrick Bajkov assisted.
Reading extended its lead just 19 seconds later on Brayden Low’s equal strength goal, assisted by Frank DiChiara and Grant Cooper, to make the score 2-0.
The Walleye found themselves in a 3-0 hole by the 11:51 mark in the opening frame as Trevor Gooch scored his 19th goal of the season for the Royals. Brad Morrison and Garrett Cecere collected the assists on Reading’s final goal of the period. Neither team found the back of the net for the remainder of the period, sending the Walleye into the intermission trailing by three.
Anthony Gagnon scored the lone second period goal for the Royals 7:45 into the frame, extending the Reading lead to four with the second power play goal of the game. Patrick Bajkov collected his second assist with the primary helper, and Patrick McNally earned the secondary assist. Toledo held the Royals to just six shots during the period but could not find the back of the net to break the shutout. Reading entered the second intermission with the 4-0 lead.
The final frame began with a deadlock for over 16 minutes, but the Walleye started a comeback charge in the final four minutes with a goal from Keeghan Howdeshell at the 16:47 mark. The equal strength goal was Howdeshell’s tenth of the season. John Albert and Butrus Ghafari earned the assists as the Walleye cut into Reading’s lead.
Mason Millman entered the penalty box for interference at the 17:17 mark, and Brandon Hawkins cut the Reading lead to two a minute later with a power play goal at 18:16. Albert and Matt Berry assisted on Hawkins’ 14th goal of the year as Albert secured a multi-assist night.
The Walleye remained in striking distance, but the Royals found the empty net with nine seconds remaining to close the door on a Toledo comeback. Trevor Gooch scored his second goal of the game on the empty netter with Thomas Ebbing and Kenny Hausinger assisting. Reading came away with the 5-2 victory to sweep the two-game season series with the Walleye.
Toledo outshot Reading, 34-19, over the course of the game, while Reading earned five power play opportunities to Toledo’s three. The Royals converted twice with the man advantage while the Walleye scored once on the power play.
Logan Flodell earned the win in net for the Royals, saving 32 of 34 shots while only giving up two goals. Billy Christopoulos took the loss for the Walleye, saving 14 shots on 18 chances in net for Toledo.
The Walleye have two days off before continuing their six-game homestand on Wednesday, March 2, against the Wheeling Nailers. Puck drop from the Huntington Center is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
- Reading – Brad Morrison (goal, assist)
- Reading – Trevor Gooch (two goals, assist)
- Toledo – John Albert (two assists)