BURLINGTON — On paper heading into Saturday’s boys hockey game between Reading and Burlington, it seemed as if the experienced Rockets should have the edge over a younger Red Devils team, and the result played out that way.
The Rockets’ skill showed early, scoring three first-period goals and slowly imposing their will in a 5-1 victory in front of a packed barn at Burlington Ice Palace.
“Look, they are a young team, and we are a little older so quite frankly if you are going to be a pretty good team you need to win those games,” said Reading coach Mark Doherty. “We are pretty happy with our forwards, and we have enough skill where we should score goals.”
The offense got rolling just 1:16 into the game when Evan Pennucci fired a shot from the left side that Mike Dufton tipped home past Burlington goalie Chris Busby.
Later in the period, the Rockets doubled their lead when senior defenseman Zach Micciche held the puck in at the blue line and fed a cross-ice pass to Matty Fichera whose backhand bid was denied by Busby. But, Laz Giardina pounced on the rebound and slid it into the empty side.
Burlington answered just 1:05 later when Will Curtin buried his chance set up by Will McLean to cut the lead in half.
However, the lead was short-lived as Reading scored 46 seconds later as it broke into the Burlington zone on a two-on-one and Cam Fahey held the puck before firing over the blocker side of Busby for a 3-1 lead, sending the Rockets fan base, and well-represented student body, into a frenzy.
“It means so much to have a crowd like this and it is what high school hockey is all about and it’s great for all of these kids,” said Doherty. “You don’t experience this elsewhere like you do in the Middlesex League in particular. After last year, all these kids deserve it.”
Reading extended the lead early in the second period when junior Robbie Granara scored his first of two goals, burying a pass from James Lawhorne and beating Busby glove side.
Burlington had its best chance to get back in the game midway through the second period gaining a two-man advantage for 1:14 but the Devils could not generate much on the power play.
“We had some power plays, but our power play was tired because we were overplayed,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison. “We had trouble getting set up in the zone. We kept the puck out a little too high on that two-man. Our execution needs to get better offensively.”
Granara iced the game in the third period scoring at 1:49 when he buried a beautiful cross-ice feed from Pennucci.
While the offense was clicking for the Rockets, the defense was solid led by senior captain Zach Micciche (two assists) and senior goalie Franklin Zessis who calmly made 21 saves.
Despite the loss, and the 0-2 start, Conceison was pleased with his team’s effort as they prepare for another home game on Thursday night against Bridgewater-Raynham.
“I don’t think I have ever lost a game 5-1 and feel as good as I do about it,” added Conceison. “I thought we played well. I thought we took a big step from the Winchester game. I thought we played better. We played with more intensity. We need to start bearing down and cashing in on our opportunities. I felt like we played a pretty strong game.”
Reading (2-0) will host Melrose on Wednesday night at Burbank Arena.