Thunder drop first of two in Reading

READING, PA — The Adirondack Thunder were unable to continue their hot run of form as they fell 5-2 to the Reading Royals on Tuesday evening at Santander Arena.

Reading struck first less than eight minutes into the game as forward Mark Naclerio scored on the man advantage to put his team ahead 1-0. The Royals moved the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, which to a Nolan Zajac shot that was denied by Thunder netminder Nick Riopel, but the rebound fell to Naclerio who went to his backhand for the goal. Zajac and forward Alex Krushelynski, the seventh assist of the season for Neiley.

Adirondack returned the favor with a power-play goal of its own less than two minutes later, coming with the Thunder on a 5-on-3 advantage. After Mathieu Brodeur’s shot was blocked in front, forward Eric Neiley fed the rebound attempt to teammate Pierre-Luc Mercier, who slotted it home from close range to tie the game at one. Neiley and Brodeur collected the assists on the play, Brodeur’s first point of the 2017-18 season.

The Royals continued the back-and-forth scoring in the first period as forward Ryan Penny collected his fifth goal of the season immediately following the expiration of a Reading power play. After goaltender John Muse sent a stretch pass to forward Matt Willows at the offensive blueline, the New Hampshire graduate entered the attacking zone and hit Penny in the slot, where he one-timed the feed past Riopel for the goal. Willows and Muse collected the assists on the play, the second of the season for Willows.

The Thunder tied the game for the second time on the evening just 2:13 into the second period as Ty Loney picked up his 12th goal of the season. Off of the rush, Adirondack center Brian Ward skated down the left wing and dropped the puck to a trailing Loney in the slot, where he beat Muse through the five hole for the goal. Loney’s tally gives him goals in eight of his last nine games played, including three straight, while Ward and forward Shane Conacher collected the assists on the play, Conacher’s sixth straight game with a point.

The hosts took their third lead of the evening with 5:26 remaining in the middle stanza as forward Matt Wilkins converted for his third goal of the season. Defenseman Loic Leduc fed Zajac at the right-hand half wall, where the Reading blueliner fed a seeing-eye pass to Wilkins at the back post for the tap-in goal. Zajac and Leduc picked up the assists on the play, the fourth of the season for Leduc.

After he saw a goal waived off for a kicking motion early in the third, Zajac scored 6:47 into the final period of regulation to push the Reading advantage to 4-2. After a turnover deep in the Adirondack defensive end, Zajac collected the puck at the right point, weaved through the Adirondack defense and fired a shot over the blocker of Riopel for his third point of the evening. Zajac’s goal, his fourth of the season, was assisted by Willows and Wilkins, the second point of the game for both forwards.

Following a turnover by the Thunder in their defensive zone, Reading opened up a 5-2 advantage courtesy of Michael Huntebrinker’s third goal of the season. Adirondack was unable to clear its own end, which led to defenseman Nick Luukko gaining possession of the puck at the right point. Luukko sent a shot towards Riopel that was redirected by Huntebrinker and underneath the crossbar for the goal. Luukko picked up the lone assist on the play, his fifth of the season.

The Thunder have finally reached the end of their 12-game road trip, as they face off in a rematch with the Royals on Friday evening at Santander Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. The Thunder then return home on Saturday, November 25 at 7:00 p.m. to take on the Royals once again to begin a seven-game homestand at Cool Insuring Arena.

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