STONEHAM, Mass. -- Austin Prep goaltender Elijah Harris, though small in stature, played like a giant on Wednesday night, leading the Cougars to a 1-0 win over town rival Reading, ending the Rockets' season and catapulting Austin Prep into the Super 8 semifinals with a 2-0 series win.
Harris, a sophomore who stands maybe 5-foot-7, made a whopping 39 saves for the Cougars.
“I’m proud of our boys,” Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “Elijah [Harris] played sensational. People will say he won the game for us, and absolutely, and that’s why he’s on our team. He’s on our team and it’s a team game. They outshot us, they had 20 quality shots, and he made some big time saves.”
The Cougars scored the game’s lone goal with 1:43 remaining in the first period. Frankie Candelino put the initial shot on Reading goaltender Evan Morelli but Cam Russo was able to jam home the rebound.
Reading’s best chance of the night came with 6:35 to play in the third period. Mark Dente raced down the right-wing side and fired a shot that Harris was able to deflect with his blocker and sent the puck sailing into the netting above the glass.
“Game like these if I put out a pad it will just hit it,” Harris said. “If I put our my glove it just goes in clean. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, you can’t predict that tonight will be the night, but you just get in the zone.”
Reading was relentless all night, piling bodies in front of Harris. But, the goaltender was able to stay square to the puck and find openings for a line of sight.
“With my size I can kind of look through their legs,” Harris said with a chuckle. “I was just seeing the puck and seeing the release. When you have nights like tonight, I can read that stuff, and even make a second reaction if it gets tipped.”
The Rockets pulled their goaltender and just eight seconds later, were given a power play for the final 1:16 of the game. But up 6-on-4, they still weren’t able to find an opening past Harris.
“We generated good chances,” Reading head coach Mark Doherty said. “Obviously we have some set plays we we try to setup and I’m not sure we fully got it implemented the way we wanted, but again, we got pucks rotated up high and we got shots and we got at some rebounds. But that’s the game of hockey, if one kid gets hot -- and Evan [Morelli] has won a lot of games for us -- that can happen.”
SEASON OVER FOR READING, 17 SENIORS
Reading’s roster was loaded with upperclassmen. A total of 17 seniors were on last night’s roster, playing in what amounted to their final high school game.
“The locker room is great,” Doherty said. “It’s emotional, but we had a great effort. It’s hard to keep your head up but they represented Reading incredibly well, and that’s the message I gave them.”