- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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READING, Mass. -- Calling 12th-seeded Acton-Boxborough’s 3-1 win over No. 5 Reading in their first-round Division 1 North playoff game an upset would be a misnomer.
While the host Rockets — a team that generated some Super 8 consideration — earned their higher seed as the champions of the Middlesex League large division, the Colonials (11-8-2) battled their way into the postseason down the stretch. After suffering a slow start, A-B needed just about every point during a 6-1-1 stretch to close the regular season.
The Colonials continued their theme of coming on late with senior captain Tyler McKelvie breaking a 1-1 tie and providing the game-winning goal at 3:13 of the third period Thursday night at Burbank Ice Arena.
“They know they wouldn’t be playing now if they didn’t play good hockey,” A-B head coach Bob Lavin said.
The teams played to a scoreless first period, before A-B junior forward Joey Peduto had the Colonials to a 1-0 lead. Providing some net-front presence, Peduto directed in a point shot from senior captain Peter Sikalis on the power play at 1:33 of the second.
Reading (12-6-6) answered before the period was out with defenseman Mark Dente pinching high in the neutral zone. Dente forced a turnover through mid-ice, collected the puck along the right wing boards and let off a wrist shot from inside the right-hand circle.
That’s the only shot which beat Colonials sophomore goaltender Erik Wurman, who turned aside nine Rockets’ shots in the final period for the win.
McKelvie netted his 11th of the season for the game-winner. As the Colonials were often successful to do against the Rockets, A-B forwards Travis Scott-Hamilton and Luke O'Brien were able to generate a scoring chance off sustained pressure down low. Scott-Hamilton pushed the puck back into the slot, allowing McKelvie to pot the go-ahead.
A-B senior forward Michael Berkley capped scoring with the empty-netter in the final minute of play.
The Colonials will face the winner of Saturday’s first-round matchup between Woburn and St. Peter-Marian in a quarterfinal game on Monday at Woburn’s O’Brien Rink.
Pay attention to A-B’s blue line and there will hardly ever be a time No. 16 isn’t on the ice.
Sikalis pulls loads of ice time for the Colonials, in all situations.
It’s easy to see why.
“He’s steady for us defensively, but he also moves the puck very well,” Lavin said, “so he lets our forwards out of the zone and creates opportunities.”
The four-year varsity player has a hard and heavy shot, with good accuracy and speed — as evidenced on Peduto’s goal. He has good size with about a 6-foot-2 frame and, like many of the best, he seems to make his movements look easy, with long strides.
The economy of motion allows Sikalis to remain a fixture on the ice, particularly in crunch time.
Sikalis, along with top pairing partner, senior Kurt Tugal, were on-ice for nearly all of the final three minutes of the game.
“It’s really fun actually,” he said of his high minute total. “It can be pretty tiring in the third period, but it’s about sucking it up and gutting it out.”
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE?
It must have been hard for Burbank general manager Ed Peduto to contain his excitement before the home crowd during the second period.
Peduto served as the P.A. announcer for Thursday night’s game. And, as the rink’s allegiance is to the hometown Rockets, Peduto’s voice didn’t waver when announcing his nephew, Joey, as a goal-scorer. It was Joey’s third goal of the season.
There was another way in which Peduto showed his solidarity with A-B, however. There was a royal blue No. 24 painted below the ice next to one of the Colonials’ bench doors.
A number that just so happens to belong to a certain family member.