READING — The Reading High girls hockey season came to end after a tough battle against Needham.
Needham, the No. 20 seed, defeated No. 13 Reading, 4-2, Thursday night in the preliminary round of the MIAA Division 1 state tournament.
With the game tied at 1-1 after the first period, Needham, also the Rockets, broke the game open in the second with a pure hat trick from senior captain Lexi Schmalz to stun the Lady Rockets. Reading gave it everything until the end, but came up short ultimately ending its season.
“It was a rough ending,” said Reading coach Alexa Hingston. “I don’t think they gave up until the end, they fought hard until the last whistle. But, I give credit to Needham. They are a great hockey team. They showed up and we showed up too, they just got the best of us.”
Needham will now move on to face No. 4 Andover (17-2-1) Saturday night in a first-round game.
One of the bright spots on the ice for Reading was senior captain Kat Paradis, who scored both Lady Rocket goals and had an outstanding senior campaign finishing with 39 total points. The four-year varsity senior finishes as the program’s third all-time scorer with 118 points.
“Kat [Paradis] had a great game,” said Hingston. “Not just scoring-wise, but I thought all over the ice. She was one of the better players out there. She has been great for us all year. We will miss her next year along with our other five seniors.”
In the first period, it was Needham that was getting the better chances. But, Lady Rocket goalie sophomore Casey Machera was on early making some key blocks.
However, it was Needham that would strike for the game’s first goal. At 11:36 of the first period, Brooke Reilly passed to Grace Kelley who took a shot that Machera made a nice save on. Maddy Foster scooped up the rebound and buried the shot to give Needham a 1-0 advantage.
Needham’s lead didn’t last long though as a little over 20 seconds later, Reading struck back.
Senior captain Ainsley Cohen did some nice stick work along the boards and passed to junior Sydney Conte. Conte centered a pass to Paradis, who was perfectly positioned in front of the net to score making the game an even 1-1.
Late in the first, Needham was given a five-on-three for a little over a minute after back-to-back Reading penalties. But the Lady Rockets were able to kill it off keeping the game tied.
The second period is where it all kind of fell apart for Reading, as Schmalz went off.
Schmalz’s first goal of the period came at 7:03. After a strange bounce off the boards the puck came loose and she tucked it on the backhand to give Needham a 2-1 lead.
“They got a lucky bounce on the goal that came off the boards,” said Hingston. “My goalie was expecting it to go the other way as I think was everyone else on the ice.”
Needham upped the lead to 3-1 at 13:23 of the second period when Schmalz scored a shorthanded goal.
A few seconds later, Paradis got a breakaway chance but a good save by Needham goalie Kenzie Kelly kept the Needham Rockets up by two.
Reading found itself in an even deeper hole a minute later when Schmalz struck again at 14:32 earning herself a pure hat trick scoring all three of her goals in the period in the period to give Needham a 4-1 lead heading into the third.
Early in the third, the Lady Rockets got within two on power-play goal from Paradis. Paradis found the open net after passes from Mari Verrier and Cohen to give Reading a chance to get back into the game.
Mid-way through the period, Needham got another five-on-three but a huge kill for Reading kept the Lady Rockets in the game.
Reading got a power play of its own later in the third and had five really close shots, but couldn’t capitalize ultimately ending their season with this tough loss.