It's not a stretch to say the Storm season came to a close last evening in part because Toledo didn't get the bounces against the Reading Royals in Game 4 of their Kelly Cup playoff series.
In a bizarre finish to a tightly contested best-of-five North Division semifinal set, the Storm scored twice on its own net and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Royals at the Sports Arena.
Reading won the series 3-1 and advances to meet Trenton in the division finals.
"We were talking about it [Tuesday], how bounces were going to win games," Storm goalie Scott Fankhouser said. "The two worst bounces we've had all year and they come in one game, the most important game of the season."
The bounces that contributed to the end for Toledo came on Reading's first and third goals, the latter which proved to be the game-winner.
Ryan Kinasewich gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at 2:45 of the second period. The left wing snapped a wrister that hit Fankhouser in the right shoulder and bounced into the air. It struck back-checking Storm winger Nick Parillo in the chest and then carried behind Fankhouser.
"You've got to be kidding me," Parillo said.
"All series the puck bounced for them. Lucky bounce here, lucky bounce there, that's what's going to win the game for you in the end."
The marker that won the series for Reading came at
10:39 of the third. After Robert Snowball and Parillo scored to twice tie the contest, the Royals' Jeff Miles fired what looked to be a harmless shot from the face-off circle to Fankhouser's right.
Sailing wide, perhaps by as much as five or six feet, it hit the knee of Storm defenseman Jason Maleyko, who was parked to Fankhouser's left. Maleyko accidently redirected it into the net.
"We said at the start of the series it was going to be a tight defensive series, some great goaltending was going to be played in this series and a bounce here or there might decide it," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said. "We saw all of that in four games."
What the 1,465 in attendance last evening watched was an end to a season that saw Toledo improve by 30 points over the 2003-04 campaign.
Yet to be determined is the question of whether they attended the final contest in the 14-year history of the franchise.
Citing financial losses and a shrinking season-ticket base, Storm management last month asked the ECHL for permission to suspend operations next season. That request has been tabled until May 2 as the team looks to find new investors and sell more tickets.
"I would love to be able, as I reflect now on the season and everything that went into it, wake up tomorrow with a new outlook to rebuild this team to get back to where we were again this year," Vitucci said.
"Knowing this may take a few weeks or a month before the green light or red light goes on is going to be frustrating. It really is."
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