READING, Mass—After falling behind 2-0 to Austin Prep in their Division I first round contest on Saturday night at the Burbank Arena, the Reading Rockets seemed to have everything going in their favor after tying the game at two early in the third period.
However, it was Austin Prep eighth-grader Olivia Finocchiaro who shifted the game back in favor of the Lady Cougars.
Finocchiaro intercepted a pass, skated over the blue line and unleashed a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Reading goalie Kayla St. Pierre, off the crossbar, and into the net for the game winning goal midway through the third period.
“We have a lot of youth on our team and we are extremely young,” said Austin Prep head coach Stephanie Wood. “Olivia is an extremely talented newcomer for us this year and she had a big game. She is playing a big game for a very young person right now.”
Reading had their chances in the final period outshooting the Cougars by a 15-2 margin including two chances by sniper Ali O’Leary in the final seconds but Cougars goalie Caty Flagg (35 saves) stood strong.
Austin opened the scoring late in the first period when freshman Michaela Boyle poked a loose puck towards the net that St. Pierre could not handle and Maddy Ricci buried the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second period, Finocchiaro doubled the lead when she cruised past a Reading defender and fired a low wrist shot that broke through the pads of St. Pierre.
Austin had a chance to increase the lead midway through the second period thanks to a two man advantage for 1:04 but O’Leary and Madison Leach helped kill off the threat.
Riding that momentum, Reading cut the lead in half late in the second period when an alert Leach intercepted a pass at the blue line, skated to the high slot, and beat Flagg with a wrist shot off her shoulder.
Early in the third period, Reading got the equalizer when Caroline Seibold’s point shot hit a defender and caromed to Tori Grimmer at the left post whose shot found the top corner past a prone Flagg.
Minutes later, Finocchiaro had the answer notching the game winner and Austin held on over the final seven minutes.
“We knew it was going to be an extremely tough game against a very good opponent,” added Wood. “It is a Reading rivalry. You knew it was going to be intense and it is a big win for us tonight.”
Under fire: Austin Prep sophomore goalie Caty Flagg saw a lot of pucks thrown her way as the Rockets kept firing all night as evidenced by their 37-14 shots advantage.
Stagg came up big midway through the second period as the Cougars got caught on a bad change and Reading’s Ali O’Leary came in clean on a breakaway.
Flagg held her ground and flashed her blocker to deny the bid and keep the A-P lead at 2-0.
And despite allowing the tying goal early in the third period, Flagg would compose herself and meet up with O’Leary once again, this time with the game on the line.
With St. Pierre pulled for the extra attacker, O’Leary somehow got free in the slot and slid a shot destined for the far post but Flagg flashed her right pad and made a save on the follow up attempt by O’Leary to secure the win and the Cougars trip to the quarter-final round against Beverly/Danvers.
“You credit goalies when they play well and Caty Flagg had a heck of a game tonight,” said Reading head coach Mike Golden. “She made a lot of good chances look easy. Our kids were shooting low and looking for rebounds but all the credit to her and Austin Prep. They played the right game on the right night.”