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Thunder fall short, see playoff hopes slip farther away

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READING, Pa. — The Adirondack Thunder are all but eliminated from ECHL playoff contention following Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the first-place Reading Royals.

The last-place Thunder rallied from a 3-0 deficit to pull within a goal late in the game, but the loss dropped them to 26-37-3 and a .417 winning percentage. With five games left, they have no realistic way to catch the teams ahead of them in the North Division — Maine, Trois-Rivieres and Worcester — who are all .500 or better.

Trailing 3-0 late in the second period, Shane Harper scored an unassisted shorthanded goal — his 20th goal of the season — to put Adirondack on the board.

The Thunder threatened to make a game of it, as Luke Stevens scored unassisted 57 seconds into the third period to slice Reading’s lead to 3-2.

However, Patrick Bajkov scored his second goal of the game 8:14 into the third to give Reading (40-16-7-2) a cushion.

Patrick Grasso netted his 24th goal of the season for the Thunder with 2:04 left in regulation, on assists from Blake Thompson and Stevens.

Alex Sakellaropoulos made 24 saves in the game. Adirondack, which has the league’s worse penalty-kill percentage (72%), allowed two more power-play goals Wednesday.

Adirondack placed goalie Brandon Kasel on reserve Wednesday, but got defenseman Tim Theocharidis back from Utica. On Tuesday, the Thunder signed goalie Conor O’Brien, a rookie from Division III Endicott College in Massachusetts.

The Thunder are back home Sunday to face the fourth-place Worcester Railers (30-29-4-2) at 3 p.m. at Cool Insuring Arena.

Reading 4, Thunder 3

Adirondack 0 1 2 — 3

Reading 2 1 1 — 4

First Period — 1, Reading, Conley 1 (Ebbing, Pritchard), 3:00 (pp). 2, Reading, Bajkov 23 (Gooch), 13:04.

Second Period — 3, Reading Millman 7 (Conley, Low), 9:11. 4, Adirondack, Harper 20, 15:51 (sh).

Third Period — 5, Adirondack, Stevens 6, :57. 6, Reading, Bajkov 24 (Millman, Gooch), 8:14 (pp). 7, Adirondack, Grasso 24 (Thompson, Stevens), 17:56.

Goalies-saves — Adirondack, Sakellaropoulos (28 shots-24 saves). Reading, Flodell (28-25).

Power plays — Adirondack 0-2, Reading 2-3.

Referee — Bloyer. A — 1,940.

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