READING, Mass. -- It’s been a while since No. 23 Billerica won the Ed Burns Hockey Classic, but on Thursday, the Indians finally earned the tournament crown, as they defeated the Reading Rockets, 5-2.
“This has been like the tale of two cites [because] we either play well or we play bad, and tonight we played well, so I’m happy for them,” Billerica head coach Mike Mastrullo said.
The Indians were led by junior defensemen Russ Tedford (1 G, 1 A) and senior Arthur Raposo (1 G, 1 A) as well as senior Jack Jenkins, who was responsible for setting up his team’s first three goals.
“We had a line that started as sophomores as third line, and then last year they played as a second line, and then I broke them up because we had some new talent that I thought they’d be able to compliment each other," Mastrullo said. "We did a lot more thinking then we did doing in that combination, so we switched back to Arty Raposo, Jack Jenkins and Brandon Kuzmich, and that was the difference in the game."
Despite trailing Reading by one goal in the opening period, Jenkins connected with Raposo, who netted Billerica’s first score of the evening before senior Nicholas Scarpaci beat the Rockets junior goaltender Evan Morelli (19 saves) in the second period.
The Indians extended their lead on their first shot of the third period when Tedford sailed the puck from Reading’s blue line, which bounced off the far side wall before reaching the back of the net.
“I was just trying to get it up the glass in their zone, and by the dividers, [and somehow it made it to net],” said Tedford when asked to describe his third period goal.
Reading responded nearly three minutes later when junior Connor Frazier cut right in front of the Billerica net, and beat the Indians senior goaltender Bob Bourgeois (22 saves). However, the Indians stormed back during the final eight minutes, and scored two more goals, which came off the sticks of freshman Matthew Culot and Kuzmuch to secure their third win of the season.
“Five [goals] is more than we’ve scored in the last previous four [contests],” Mastrullo said. “We changed some lines, changed things up, but I think it’s about hard work. If you followed us last year, we worked hard, and we worked as a team, and each night, someone new is going to step up, and I think that’s the story of our success. And sometimes, I think it takes them a little bit longer to get there, but it took a year and a half the last time we started to play well, so now it’s a little bit sooner.”
The Rockets Will Learn From Their Mistakes: After Thursday’s loss, Reading head coach Mark Doherty admitted that while his young team has taken their lumps, he’s confident that the Rockets will bounce back and become a better unit by season’s end.
“We’re young, [and] I think we’re going to be a lot better at the end of the year than we are right now, and again, we just have to get healthy, in my opinion," Doherty said. "We have to jam the net front to score. As you saw, they had a couple goals where kids got in tight, and just picked top corners. We’re not as adept as that as them, and could have something to do with age [because we’re a young team], but again, Billerica’s good, [and] I thought it was a pretty good hockey game overall.”
Thursday’s loss also marked the end of a three-game winning streak, which featured victories against Arlington, Wilmington and Xaverian.
“For the New Year, I just want to get healthy, try to play with a full team, and see what can happen,” Doherty said. “We know what we have to work on, and we’re going to work on it.”