Thunder come up short in OT, win away from playoff birth

READING, PA – Despite a loss, the Adirondack Thunder earned a point in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime defeat to the Reading Royals, putting them in first place in the North Division. The team can clinch a playoff berth with a victory on Tuesday against the Orlando Solar Bears.

Reading opened the scoring just under six minutes into the game as defenseman Derik Johnson collected his seventh goal of the season. Forward Matt Willows fed a pass out of the offensive corner to Johnson at the right point, who saw his first wrist shot denied by Adirondack netminder J.P. Anderson, but the rebound deflected off of a Thunder player’s skate and into the back of the net. Willows and Steven Swavely collected the assists on the play, the 32nd of the season for Willows.

Less than four minutes from the end of the first period, Adirondack knotted the score at one as Austin Orszulak scored the first goal of his professional career. After a netmouth scramble in front of Reading netminder Martin Ouelette, the puck fell to Orszulak just outside the crease, where he buried it to knot the score at one. Forwards Gunnar Hughes and Brian Ward collected the assists on the play as Ward extended his scoring streak to nine games.

The Thunder took their first lead of the evening just 87 seconds into the middle stanza as they converted on the power play to take a 2-1 advantage. Forwards Cullen Bradshaw and James Henry executed a give-and-go play in front of the Reading net, resulting in a tap-in goal for Bradshaw at the back post, his sixth goal of the season and fourth in five games. Henry collected the lone assist on the play, his 29th of the season.

The Royals came back with an early period goal of their own as they tied the score at two just 61 seconds into the third period. Forward Matt Willows skated the length of the ice down the left wing and fired a shot from inside the left-hand circle that beat Anderson for the game-tying goal. Willows’ tally, his 20th point of the season.

After a back-and-forth overtime session that saw several chances at both ends, forward Steven Swavely won the game for the Royals in overtime with exactly 60 seconds remaining in regulation. Willows and Swavely moved in two-on-one into the attacking zone and the latter held the puck and fired past Anderson off the odd man rush to end the game. Willows collected the lone assist on the play, his third point of the evening.

Adirondack sees its four game winning streak come to a close but move to 35-20-7-4 on the season, good for 81 points and sole possession of first place in the North Division. With a victory on Tuesday over Orlando, the Thunder would clinch a Kelly Cup Playoff Berth for the second straight season.

Tuesday’s contest is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

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