Needing a spark, of course the Maine Mariners got it from Mathew Santos, their leading goal scorer with 26 in the regular season. And now, the Mariners are back in their first round playoff series against the Reading Royals.

With 2:26 left in the third period, Santos buried a puck that had slipped through the pads of Reading goalie Logan Flodell. It was Santos’ second goal of the game, and proved to be the game-winner in the Mariners’ 5-4 victory in front of 2,268 fans at Cross Insurance Arena.

“We had a good little rush there. I was just following up, and it happened to squeak by him,” Santos said of his game-winning goal. “Just work in front of the net. It’s not going to be easy. It never is.”

Reading now leads the series, 2-1. Thursday’s game was the first home playoff game in Maine Mariners franchise history. The Mariners began play with the 2018-19 season.

Entering the game, the Mariners knew they had to do a better job in front of the net.

“If you look at all five goals, they’re right there at the goal mouth. That’s what we talked about. We challenged our players to get inside their dots, and we did that,” Maine Coach Ben Guite said.


Maine trailed 4-3 entering the third period. For the second game in a row, the Mariners made a switch in net during the game, inserting Jeremy Brodeur in place of Stefanos Lekkas to start the third period. Brodeur relieved Callum Booth in the second period of a 3-0 loss in Game 2. Brodeur made six saves and did not allow a goal, giving his teammates time to tie the game and take the lead.

“He’s been great in relief. The last three times he came in in relief, he hasn’t allowed a goal. So to us it was a no-brainer,” Guite said.

Just 1:14 into the third, Maine tied the game on a goal by Reid Stefanson goal. It stayed tied until Santos’ late heroics.

In the second period, the Mariners could not match their intensity from the first, allowing four goals to surrender the lead. Reading tied the game at 3:14 of the second on a Kenny Hausinger goal moments after Maine goalie Stefanos Lekkas made a pair of saves on two quick Frank Dichiara shots.

Maine regained the lead at 4:32, when Santos took a Nick Master pass and broke in ahead of the defense, beating Flodell high over the blocker. The Mariners lead was short-lived. Reading’s Jacob Pritchard tied the game at 6:54, scoring on the rebound of a Trevor Gooch shot that hit the post. Almost two minutes later, at 8:45. Brad Morrison scored on a deflection in front of the net to give Reading a 3-2 lead.

The Mariners tied it again at 11:51, when Cam Askew tipped home a Reid Stefanson pass, but the Royals reclaimed the lead on Garrett McFadden’s goal at 18:19.

At the 9:29 mark of the first period, Maine took its first lead of the series, snapping its 0 for 8 series power-play drought. With Reading’s Brennan Saulner serving a double minor for roughing, Connor Bleackley tipped Michael Kim’s shot from the point past Flodell for the 1-0 lead. The Mariners were 0 for 7 on the power play in the series’ first two games, and came away with nothing on their first chance with the man advantage Thursday.

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