READING, Pa. - During the intermission after his team's worst 20 minutes of the season, Toledo Storm coach Nick Vitucci had to talk to his players about having a passion for hockey.
"For the first time this year, in the second period, we didn't show any kind of passion," he said.
That period was the difference last night as the Storm fell 5-3 to the Reading Royals in front of a near-sellout crowd of 6,617 at the Sovereign Center.
Toledo beat first-place Wheeling 7-3 Friday night at the Sports Arena, then bused more than 500 miles to Reading to take on the second-place Royals. The already short-handed Storm lost Brad Bonello, who was coming off a hat-trick, to the AHL
Toledo (9-5-3) still got the better of the play in the first period, outshooting Reading 14-10, but entered the first intermission down 2-0.
Rookie defenseman Stuart Kerr put the Royals (12-3-1) on the board 9:24 into the first period on a slap shot from the right wing that bounced through Logan Koopman's goalie pads. Just 75 seconds later, Greg
Hogeboom scored from the slot during a power play.
"That first period, I thought we played well enough maybe to be up 2-0 instead of down 2-0," Vitucci said. "Maybe we weren't rewarded for our efforts.
"From there, it was still a two-
goal game and certainly a deficit we could come back from, which made the second period so much more disappointing because we just kind of gave up there in the second period when we were still in the game."
The Royals scored three times in the second while limiting the Storm to a season-low four shots on goal. The spirit-breaker was Chris Bala's short-handed goal, which came just 69 seconds after Tyler Hanchuck connected on a slap shot from the left point.
Vitucci pulled Koopmans (27 saves) after the second, and his team bounced back to outscore Reading 3-0 in the third. Adam Keefe scored 27 seconds into the period, then Mike James and Scooter Smith lit the lamp with 8:50 and 6:25 to go, respectively.
But the Storm had put itself too far behind in the second to mount a successful comeback.
"There were some pros in the third period," Vitucci said, "but the second period was a big con."
Toledo plays host to Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday at the Sports Arena.