- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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READING, Mass. -- Much has changed since the first time No. 7 Reading and No. 12 Winchester met this season.
The Middlesex League rivals met in their season opener and the Sachems skated away with a resounding 5-0 shutout win. However, the Rockets have been building momentum ever since that game, evidenced by last week’s 3-2 upset of No. 2 Hingham.
Again, Reading proved that it is far removed from the showing it made on opening night, taking a 3-2 win over Winchester on Saturday night at the Burbank Ice Arena.
“The effort has improved tremendously every night and the second thing is that the locker room is great,” Rockets head coach Mark Doherty said about his team’s turnaround.
The teams were tied 2-2 heading into the third period in a tightly checked contest. The Rockets (8-2-1, 6-1-0) were lifted by defenseman Chris Welch’s goal with 3:15 remaining and they were able to hold onto the lead in the tense waning moments with some key stops by goaltender Andrew Keen, who made 17 saves in the win.
Although Reading outshot the Sachems 11-2 in the first period, Winchester was first on the scoreboard with the first of two goals from rangy winger Ryan McGoff. With a little less than five minutes remaining in the first, McGoff got Keen moving the other way with a pretty deke at the top of the goalmouth. He finished on the backhand for a 1-0 Sachem lead with Nolan Redler and Conor Tedesco picking up assists on the play.
Reading responded just before the first intermission. Joe Czarnota took a feed from Zack Coughlin inside the left side circle and blasted it past Winchester netminder Jed Robinson (22 saves) with 13 seconds remaining.
The Rockets took a 2-1 lead early in the second on the power play. Ross Anderson’s cannon found its way through a thicket of traffic in front of Robinson 1:41 into the second.
However, the Sachems (5-2-1, 5-2-1) tied it up with a goal on the man-advantage as well. McGoff tallied his second goal of the game as Redler picked up his second point of the game with 1:20 to play in the second.
That’s the way it stood until Welch’s blast.
“Joe Czarnota passed it to me, I ripped it from the point and it just happened to go in,” Welch said. “I’m just happy it went in.”
A few moments before his deciding goal, Welch registered a thunderous hip check in his own zone, which drew a loud roar of approval from the home crowd. It was one of a great many big hits in the game between hard-nosed rivals.
In other words, it was the game the Rockets wanted to play and, this time, they came out with a win.
“We always expect a hard-fought game against them,” Welch said of the Sachems. “They’re going to battle to the end, they’re going to hit. They’re going to grind it out until the end. That’s a Winchester team.”