Alex Kile knows the Maine Mariners at times can play “tight and nervous” when they’re behind.

On Tuesday night, they never got that chance.

Riding momentum from Monday’s night’s overtime thriller, the Mariners cruised to a 7-3 victory over visiting Reading at Cross Insurance Arena to tie their first round ECHL playoff series at two games apiece.

Kile registered three assists and late-season addition Carter Johnson turned a third-period hat trick before a crowd of 2,936. In goal, Francois Brassard made 35 saves and denied Reading on four power plays.

The home team has won every game in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Portland. The remainder of the series will be played in Reading Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.

“(Monday night) basically saved our season,” Kile said of the 4-3 squeaker, when the Mariners forced overtime with Brassard pulled for an extra skater late in the third. “(Tuesday) was a similar type of game. We needed to win and we did.”


The first four games have played out exactly as they did a year ago, before Reading won Game 5 in Portland and finished off a 4-2 series victory at home in Pennsylvania. Kile, the first player ever signed by the Mariners, believes this year will be different.

“We have a lot of returners from last year and last year hurt,” Kile said. “I also believe our team is better this year. I think we’re going to be ready to go (Wednesday night). We don’t want to go there trying to win two games. We want to go there to try to win one. I think that makes a big difference.”

The Mariners came out strong Tuesday night, outshooting Reading 17-6 in the first period and taking a 2-1 lead. Connor Doherty (from the left boards) and Mathew Santos (from the bottom of the right circle) both scored from long range.

It could have been more, but Reading killed off an extended Maine power play of nearly four minutes in which the Mariners managed only three shots on goal. Finally at full strength, the Royals converted their first shot, from the slot by Jacob Gaucher to make it 1-1.

Reading tied it at 2 early in the second when a centering pass originating from Charlie Gerard in the trapezoid behind the end line caromed off two different Maine defensemen’s skates before trickling into the net.

The Mariners scored twice more, however, with Gabriel Chicoine finishing off a 3-on-2 rush from the high slot and Curtis Hall converting on a power play in the final minute to make it 4-2 entering the third.


That’s when Johnson, a trade deadline acquisition from Wheeling in mid March, took over. He scored in the seventh minute on a tough angle from low in the left circle, converted a 4-on-4 feed from Marc-Olivier Duquette to make it 6-2 and notched his first professional hat trick with an empty-netter from center ice to complete the scoring with just under two minutes left.

“I think the way we’re going, I just have such a belief in everyone in the room,” Johnson said. “There’s no question everyone is hungry from it. We’re all bought in for taking the next step.”

In the first three games, the Mariners have struggled to advance the puck through the neutral zone against Reading’s sticky 1-1-3 defense. On Tuesday night, they had more success.

“I feel like we’ve started to break that 1-1-3 a little bit,” said Terrence Wallin, Maine’s head coach. “We’ve started to find ways to penetrate it. It’s something that we’re focusing on, because they’re so good at it.”

Despite having home dates on weeknights, the Mariners drew more fans Monday and Tuesday than Reading did on Friday and Saturday nights. Wallin certainly noticed.

“It’s nice to have such big crowds on Mondays and Tuesdays,” he said. “It matters. Hopefully they’ll come again (Wednesday) because we definitely need them.”

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