READING, Mass. -- Whether they needed it or not, the Reading boys' hockey team made a rather loud statement Thursday night.
The 13th-ranked Rockets got two goals from Derek Galante, 21 saves from Evan Morelli and went a perfect 5-for-5 killing penalties to claim a 4-2 victory over No. 7 BC High at Burbank Arena.
Reading's top line of Galante, Andrew Narahara and Pat Manzi produced a terrific effort with Naraha and Manzi each collecting a pair of assists and the trio leading all four Rockets lines in an aggressive forechecking style that disrupted any offensive flow the Eagles tried to maintain, especially in the first and third periods.
"Derek just drives to the net," Reading head coach Mark Doherty said. "He's a junior and his productivity will get better and better but he's got some of the best hands on our team. If he's around the net, chances are he can capitalize as well. Narahara's just a dog. He works hard, always kills himself and is just a stable, hard-nosed kid. Manzi played with a lot of energy. He can be a little high and low but he had a lot of energy tonight. He's so important for us if he and Derek are playing north-south, its a huge asset for us."
Galante notched his first as the rebound of a Manzi shot landed right on his stick for an easy laser into an open net just 4:10 into the game. Narahara also set up the second Rockets tally, springing Mike Thomson loose at center ice seconds after Reading (12-3-5) killed off its third straight penalty. Thomson beat one defenseman and walked in for a wrist shot that gave his team a 2-0 lead.
BC High (9-5-3) came storming back in the second, matching their opponents intensity and being rewarded with goals from P.J. Johnson and Tom Besinger.
Rather than wilt under pressure, the young Rockets responded as Narahara fed Galante from behind the net for a perfect one-timer in the slot to regain the lead with 1:20 left in the second. Mike Thomson added the clincher with 5:50 to go in the game, taking a long pass off the side wall from Connor Frazier and zipping a wrist shot inside the far post.
"We usually work together really hard and when we dump it down low, we get two guys on them and always keep a third guy high and just crash the net," Galante said of his line. "That's how we get goals, we get rebounds. Both the other kids like shoot the puck and I just go to the net and get the rebounds."
PENALTY KILLING EXCELLENCE
The Rockets were nothing short of spectacular when it came to the task of killing penalties. Five penalties in all, two of which were strung together for a two-man down situation in the first period, all went by the boards as Reading limited to the Eagles to five total shots on net with the extra man.
All told, eight penalty killers did the dirty work for the Rockets. The quartet of Mark Dente, Robert Devaney, Matt Hagan and Andrew Lawrence handled the entire 5-on-3, while the work of Ryan Thomson, Peter Nugent, Narahara and Connor Frazier not only killed off the third but also led directly to Thomson's first-period goal.
"(The penalty kill) was successful tonight. We've been working on it a lot," Doherty said. "We've got a real good goalie as well. When he's on he's tough to beat. They all have pretty good hockey instincts and they're all gritty."
SUPER 8 IMPLICATIONS
Thursday night was something of a no-lose situation for Reading. The tilt with the Eagles was listed as an exclusion game, meaning a loss wouldn't count against their record when it comes time for postseason play.
The fact that the Rockets got the win is an even bigger positive, because while it won't count toward their record, it will be in the minds of the Super 8 selection committee and will undoubtedly become a point of discussion in the Rockets favor should the need arise.
One other point Reading already had in its pocket - a Middlesex League large division championship. That is supposed to mean something, given the historic success the league's members have had in postseason play, including Reading's Super 8 championship in 2007-08.
When asked if his team merited inclusion in the prestigious tournament, Doherty felt the Rockets resume should be enough to get them in while noting that there are still plenty of games remaining that could impact a number of teams, his included.
"I hope it is (enough). I think we came back after a tough game with Arlington and we played very well. Yeah, I think it should give us some credence," he said.
"If anyone was at the Hingham game, in my eyes, it was an equal game and we missed two or three breakaways," he continued, referring to a 2-1 loss to the Harbormen on Jan. 16. "I just tell my guys to keep playing. I don’t really like getting into these discussions this early. I’d rather wait because there’s still games left to be played. But, we’ll see what they want to do in another week."