READING — The Reading High boys hockey team won a thriller over an always tough St. John’s Prep team.
The Rockets defeated the Eagles, 2-1, Wednesday night at Burbank Arena thanks to a third-period goal by Sean Barbera that snapped a tie game.
Overall, this was a well-played game that featured outstanding goaltending on both ends. It was also the first time Reading and St. John’s have met in hockey since the 2009 MIAA tournament, a game St. John’s won, 2-1, in a shootout.
“Going into this game, I thought in this sort of environment we needed to pick up the tempo a little with intensity,” said Reading coach Mark Doherty. “Earlier this year in another game, I didn’t think we played with enough intensity, so I was glad to see that. We were blocking shots and we are not the biggest team, but we played through people. It was a good win for us.”
Tied at one heading into the third period, Barbera, a junior forward, scored the game-winner for the Rockets on a goal that just got through Eagles goalie Jackson Irving’s legs.
“It was typical of Sean,” said Doherty. “He doesn’t shoot the puck all that great, but he scores goals and that’s him. One thing he does do great is get rid of pucks quickly.”
A key factor in Reading’s win was junior goalie Dylan Emery who finished the game with 22 saves. Emery came up huge for his team, especially late in the third period with the game on the line.
With 30 seconds left to play in the game, St. John’s Prep had a good chance to score and Emery made an incredible diving save to keep Reading ahead by one.
“He [Emery] played terrific,” said Doherty. “He did a great job for us tonight.”
Less than two minutes in the first period, Reading (4-2-0) was dealt a penalty giving the Eagles (2-2-2) their first power-play chance of the game.
However, it was Rockets that scored first on a shorthanded goal by junior forward Shawn Golden. Senior Kyle Liesener shot a perfect cross-ice pass to Golden, who caught it on the fly and fired home the wrist shot to give Reading an early 1-0 lead.
A little over 10 seconds later, the Eagles were still able to take advantage of the power play. Junior Matt Taylor shot one that Emery blocked down low. The puck got loose and junior forward Ryan Hart buried the rebound to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second period, both sides had opportunities to score but neither were able to capitalize due to great goaltending.
Three minutes in to the second, sophomore Zack McKenelley had a great chance to give the Eagles a lead, but Emery once again made an incredible diving stop the keep the game tied.
Late in the second, after good back and forth play, Reading had a few good chances off the stick of senior captains Mike Tobin and Brendan Donovan. However, both were blocked by Irving, who finished the night with 28 saves.
At 3:00 of the third period, the Rockets finally broke though to take the lead on a huge goal by Barbera. Junior Jake Emery passed to Barbera who shot just through the legs of Irving to give Reading a 2-1 lead.
Reading did a fantastic job blocking shots and keeping the Eagles from scoring the rest of the period to hold on for the win.
The Rockets hope to ride this momentum to their next game against Winchester which has been very good so far this season.
Reading will battle the Sachems (5-1-0) Saturday night at Burbank Arena at 6 pm.
“Winchester is a real tough Middlesex League opponent, so we will see what happens,” said Doherty.
The Sachems also eliminated the Rockets from last year’s Division 1 North tournament, 5-1.