WOBURN — On Friday afternoon, the Reading High boys hockey team thought its season was over and Winchester thought it was going to play Belmont in the Middlesex League tournament championship game on Saturday.
When Belmont had to withdraw from the game due to COVID-19 issues, Reading stepped in to play Winchester. However, the game was not deemed the playoff championship, rather just a makeup game from early in the season when the two teams could not play because of Reading’s own COVID-19 issues.
The Rockets made the most of their opportunity and prevailed, 3-0 at the O’Brien Rink.
“We heard (Friday) night that we had a chance to play,” said Reading junior Ryan Goodwin, who scored two of the Rockets’ goals. “We’re glad we had the chance.”
After finishing fifth in the Middlesex League Liberty Division, Reading did not play in the eight-team tournament, which included the top four teams from the Liberty and Freedom Divisions. The Rockets played two consolation games, defeating Wilmington and Watertown.
“We’re glad we got the opportunity and felt like we belonged in the tournament,” said Reading coach Mark Doherty, whose team finished the season at 6-3-2. “The [Liberty] Division was stronger and we felt that it should have been power-rated. We’re grateful to the [Winchester] AD and to Gino [Khachadourian, the Winchester coach] for giving us a chance to play. We feel bad for Belmont because this is the second time this has happened to them.”
Last year, the Marauders made it to the MIAA Division 1 state title game, but the MIAA canceled all championship games on that weekend, which was at the beginning of the pandemic. The MIAA declared Belmont as a co-champion with Walpole.
As of Saturday evening neither Khachadourian nor Winchester athletic director Marc Arria were certain if the Middlesex League was going to declare Winchester and Belmont co-champions or if there would be no champion.
Belmont hockey’s official Twitter account said the COVID-19 issue was not within its program.
Reading led, 2-0 at the half. Less than six minutes into the game, the Rockets capitalized on a turnover at the Winchester blue line. Goodwin and Jake Donovan went in on a 2-on-1 and Goodwin flipped the puck into the top right corner of the net, bouncing off the inside of the right post into the goalmouth.
Donovan scored the Rockets’ second goal at 17:25 of the first, tipping a close-range shot inside the left post.
Goodwin added his second goal with 18:35 left in the game. He took a close-range shot that Winchester goalie Rob DiVincenzo stopped with his pads. Goodwin collected the rebound and slipped a shot into the goal.
Winchester (7-3-2) had its best chances early in the game, before the Rockets got on the board. About a minute before Goodwin’s first goal, Reading goalie Alec Sullivan (23 saves) stopped a backhand shot from Joey Falso,
“We didn’t have the same drive and emotion that we did in the last two games against Melrose and Burlington,” Khachadourian said. “Reading is a very good, well-coached team and played with a lot of emotion.”
This was Khachadourian’s second season with Winchester.
“I’m proud of the seniors and the year they had,” he said. “We bult on last year and beat some good teams. Everyone was more used to the system. We have a lot of good players coming back.
“I hope the league does a tournament like this again. It gives everyone something to play for.”
Said Doherty, “It was just a funny season. We got started three weeks later than everyone, but we got to play and everyone in the league seemed happy to have that chance.”
Charlie Miele claimed two assists for the Rockets.