Boston High School: Mark Doherty

D1 North final: Reading 4, Wilmington 3 (SO)

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11

LOWELL, Mass. – The legend of Monday night’s MIAA Division 1 North Final will continue to grow for a really long time. Three full periods, two overtimes and 10 rounds of the shootout were not enough to decide a winner.

Then, magic struck twice for Reading coach Mark Doherty. He sent Mike Thomson back out for his second attempt at the shootout in the 11th round, after being one of just two Rockets to be successful in the initial five rounds.

The senior went in on Wilmington senior goaltender Drew Foley, deked once and lifted a backhand past the sprawled out tender for the game-winning tally.

“He’s got skill,” Doherty said. “When we went to that second round [players could be re-used after the first 10 rounds] he’s obviously going to be the first guy to go. Thank goodness he came through.”

Mayhem ensued. Reading players, led by Thomson and senior goaltender Ian Lapham celebrated on top of one another in front of the Rockets student section. The whole team and the coaching staff joined in a truly jubilant celebration, worthy of what will go down as one of the most exciting games in high school hockey history in the Bay State.

“It was very exciting. One of my coaches said I almost had a heart attack [in the shootout],” joked Doherty, a sentiment probably felt by numerous other people in the building.

The 4-3 win vaults Reading into Sunday’s MIAA Division 1 State Championship game against Braintree at the TD Garden.

“I’m thrilled we came out on top,” Doherty said. “We’ve got Braintree on Sunday. I respect [Wamps] head coach Dave Fasano and it will be another great game. It’s great to have two [public schools] fighting for the state title.”

Brick walls: The real story of the game was the truly remarkable goaltending that was on display at both ends of the ice. Reading’s Lapham and Wilmington’s Foley traded saves blow-for-blow.

At times, the pair made it look as if there was a brick wall preventing pucks from crossing the goal line.

Foley made 40 saves in regulation and overtime. He made a multitude of spectacular saves throughout the game, but several stretches of play really stood out.

“Foley is terrific,” noted Doherty.

He flashed the leather to make three brilliant saves around the midway mark of the third period. Foley bailed out his team on several occasions in both overtime sessions, including when the Wildcats were down a man in the second extra period.

Lapham made 29 saves in regulation and the overtime periods, and although he made several highlight worthy saves during game action, he clearly saved his best for the shootout.

The senior made an incredible kick save on a Wilmington shooter during the shootout, a puck that was labeled for the bottom corner.

Lapham’s success in the shootout came as no surprise to his teammates and coaching staff.

“It’s funny, we were just joking about it,” Doherty said. “Ian backed up a kid named Evan Morelli for two years. Evan is a terrific goalie, but we always joked that Ian was better on breakaways. For some reason he’s just an outstanding breakaway goalie.”

Ironman Seibold: Reading junior defenseman Mike Seibold was the Rockets’ version of Zdeno Chara on Monday night. He hardly came off the ice, and at times appeared to be double shifting almost every time out on the ice.

Seibold was resilient, bouncing back from an uncharacteristic turnover that led to an early Wilmington goal.

“In the first period the puck got stuck near him. It was a bad break. I wasn’t worried about him fighting back. He was awesome after that. Instead of folding he figured it out,” said Doherty.

After that he bucked down, played a physically imposing game, keeping Wilmington’s charges to the perimeter and landing some bone-crunching hits.

“He’s a competitor,” Doherty said. “He threw a couple big hits that were huge, good, clean neutral zone hits. He can change the flow of a game. He’s a gamer. I truly expect Mike to play in big games.”

Brotherly connection: Mike Thomson was the shootout hero, but younger brother Matt, a freshman, found the back of the net twice as well. He scored the second goal of the game for the Rockets and led off the shootout with a successful strike.

“He can really shoot a puck and he has really good hands,” said Doherty of the elder Thomson.

Matt Thomson has some skill of his own, something that Reading fans will surely get accustomed to seeing over the next few years.

Wildcats legacy: Seniors Luke Foley and Austin O’Neal scored goals in their last high school game and fellow classmate Cody McGowan was one of just two Wildcats to score in the shootout.

The three talented senior forwards were part of a special group that will graduate seven this spring. The senior class will go down as the group that led the program’s transition from back-to-back Division 2 state championships to a berth in the Division 1 North final this season.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” Wilmington head coach Steve Scanlon said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be in this game this year after all the talent we graduated. They’re hurting now, but they have a lot to be proud of.”

D1 North: Reading 2, St. Mary's 0

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
BILLERICA, Mass. – For more than an hour, it was a staring contest between Reading and St. Mary's in the second Division 1 North semifinal at the Chelmsford Forum.

St. Mary's blinked first.

After 32:48 of scoreless hockey, Reading's Sean Verrier wriggled free in the slot and roof a point-blank shot into the top corner of the goal to put the Rockets ahead. Jake Barbera would add another goal with just over a minute left to ice Reading's 2-0 win.

“It feels great [with] a lot talk about them being the best,” Verrier said. “Everyone saying we should have been knocked out in the first round. If we keep playing the way we do I say we'll keep going the way we're going.”

After an even first period the Rockets took over. Reading outshot the Spartans 27-9 over the final 30 minutes. The Rocket defense forced St. Mary's to the outside and minimized chances. Ian Lapham anchored the Reading defense posting a 15-save shutout.

“[The defense] did for the most part keep things out side,” Reading coach Mark Doherty said. “Ian was rock solid. I'm glad for him. He responded nicely tonight.

“I didn't think they had a ton of outstanding chances tonight, but he made it a lot more comforting. You could tell he was in a pretty good zone tonight.”

The Spartans offense, which features five players with seven or more goals, was unable to sync up. As the game progressed, and especially after Reading took the lead, St. Mary's pressed hard and stressed themselves into making mistakes.

St. Mary's coach Mark Lee chalked the performance up to a young team not knowing how to step into the moment.

“I think the grips on the sticks got a little tighter and everyone was pressing too hard,” Lee said. “That's not our normal flow. We go out and try to outwork the opponent. We just got away from our gameplan a bit. A lot of it was Reading; they're a well-coached team. We didn't have our A-game, but some of that had to do with Reading and some had to do with our inexperience. Doesn't take away from the great season we've had.”

BAILEY'S LAST RIDE: With 2.4 seconds remaining, and the game's result secure, everyone on the St. Mary's looked down the ice towards the final faceoff of the season. Senior goaltender Bailey MacBurnie looked up at the clock. His gaze hung there until the horn's blare had faded and the handshake lines had formed. It was the end to a sterling career.

MacBurnie, who keyed St. Mary's run to an undefeated season and the two-seed in the 2012 Super 8 tournament returned from a year at Brewster Academy to anchor another deep tournament run for the Spartans.

“He came back this year and anchored our team,” Lee said. “He kept us in every game. He's a vocal kid on and off the ice. He's meant the world to this team and the program this year.”

MacBurnie finished the season with a 1.74 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

Against the Rockets, he turned aside 31 shots.

“I definitely owe it to all these coaches,” MacBurnie said. “They really made me into the player I am today, and I’ll take that wherever I go.

“I'm definitely happy I came back. It's been just an amazing experience. I'm just happy that all these young guys got a taste of it; it makes them hungry.”

The MacBurnie family though still has work to do for the Spartans. Bailey's younger brother Shawn, a junior, led St Mary's with 29 points this season.

“He's really transformed into a really great player,” Bailey said. “He's a golfer, but I think hockey's his new number one. I can't wait to see him next year.”

REBUILT AND REVIVED: Before the start of the season many wrote Reading off as facing a rebuilding year. After racking up a pedestrian 7-7-2 record through the end of January the Rockets flipped the proverbial switch and are 8-1-0 since.

Doherty said his team found the metaphorical “it” and have rolled since.

“We're a group of guys that can bring a lot to the table, and we didn't realize that in the beginning,” Barbera said. “As the year progressed we said we got a shot at this. We wanted to work at it, put in the time and effort at practice, and it's amazing how far we've come.”

Reading has outscored its opponents 39-12 since finding its mojo in its last nine game and have a date with league rival Wilmington on Monday night for the right to play for a state championship.

Reading beat Wilmington, 6-3, in the first game of the season back on Dec. 14.

Since the turn of the century the D1 North final has featured at least one team from the Middlesex League. This year's will be the fourth time, and third year in a row, that it will be an all-Middlesex League final.

“The league continues to have success, success, success, and we still have a ton of detractors out there,” Doherty said. “That's sort of a burr that's always in my side, and thank god we get to prove it again. I'm grateful to be in the finals against Wilmington. It's going to a tough game.”

D1 North: Reading 5, Melrose 3

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
WOBURN, Mass. -- On more than one occasion Reading head coach Mark Doherty was breathing a sigh of relief. Even after several minutes had passed following his team's 5-3 comeback victory over Melrose in Saturday afternoon's Division 1 North quarterfinal at Ned O'Brien Rink, Doherty was still mopping his brow.

Down a goal after two periods, the Rockets were still in search of that elusive tying marker midway through the third. Then lightning struck quickly and often, and as a result, changed the entire complexion of this contest for good.

Senior forward Mike Thomson picked off an errant inside the Red Raiders zone and snapped a shot from the left circle past goaltender Tyler Brown at 7:25 to tie matters at 2 apiece. Roughly four minutes later, the comeback trail continued. James Donaghey, a senior, and junior Sean Verrier scored just nine seconds apart to put Reading ahead to stay.

"Melrose is a scary opponent," said Doherty. "They are big, physical and have a lot of athletes. It started to get a little tense on our bench after they went up 2-0 on us in the first period. I just told our kids to settle down because I knew we were just going to keep fighting. We knew we had enough talent but we just needed to keep fighting."

The fourth-seeded Rockets (14-8-2) advance to Wednesday's semifinal versus No. 1 St. Mary's of Lynn beginning at 7:10 p.m. from the Chelmsford Forum. No. 4 Melrose closes its season at 13-5-5.

After starting the game a bit on the flat side, the Red Raiders began to pick up the tempo midway through the opening period. By that time, Reading had already peppered Brown (15 saves) with five shots to Melrose's none. However, Brown was able to turn aside all and keep the game scoreless.

It didn't stay that way for long though. The Red Raiders started to generate some scoring opportunities once inside Reading's zone. Junior Brian McGlaughlin, on the power play, capitalized on his chance, lighting the lamp at 7:28 with a rebound goal. Then, only 30 seconds later, Melrose added to its margin with McGlaughlin again doing the honors. Standing in front of Rockets goalie Ian Lapham, the forward hurled a hard wrist shot between the senior's leg pads to send the Red Raiders into the first intermission on top 2-0.

In a contest filled with physicality up and down the ice, Reading finally sliced into the deficit at 1:49 of the middle frame. Thomson picked off a John Morreale pass just in front of the blue line and fired a point-blank laser past an unsuspecting Brown to make it 2-1.

"(Thomson) is one of the more-talented kids we've had here," Doherty said. "He's always had the ability but was sort of a late bloomer. He has tremendous talent. He is one of the best forwards in the state. Clearly his first goal in the second period got us back in this game."

That would be all the scoring in the period as Lapham (15 saves) came up with several key stops to deny Melrose a chance to pad its total.

Despite trailing by a goal, the Rockets knew they had the firepower to overtake the Red Raiders. But early in the third, they couldn't buy a goal as Brown continued to hold his ground. But Reading never backed down. Once Thomson converted his steal into a tying score, the opening of the flood gates soon followed.

Donaghey's goal, at 11:42, came off a rebound as the forward went low glove side. On the play, Melrose never picked up Donaghey, who was left unattended as he made the shot just in front of the crease. Looking stunned after watching their lead evaporate, Verrier grabbed a loose puck and was allowed to skate in alone on Brown before lining wrist shot under the catching glove at 11:51, putting the Rockets in front 4-2.

"Those two goals were huge obviously," Doherty said. "It changed the whole game."

The Red Raiders needed to regroup in a hurry to keep their playoff aspirations alive. They did just that as senior Eric Mercer, standing just inside his own blue line, blasted a shot through traffic past Lapham 5-hole bringing Melrose to within one at 12:53. But with time ticking down to under a minute and Brown pulled for the extra attacker, the Red Raiders could draw no further. Verrier added insult to injury by striking for an empty net goal with two seconds left.

"We just stuck together because we knew we could win this game," said Thomson. "We got that first goal and they just kept coming after that. We felt we were the better team and just went out there and played hard. With each goal we were getting more and more momentum and it kept going from there."

Recap: No. 13 Burlington 2, No. 20 Reading 0

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
BURLINGTON, Mass. — Nearly six weeks ago, the Burlington Red Devils walked out of Burbank Arena in Reading with their heads down after being on the wrong end of a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Reading.

Since then, the Devils have gone on an 11-game unbeaten streak (8-0-3) including a methodical 2-0 shutout of the Rockets on Monday night at the Ice Palace behind a second straight shutout by senior goaltender Mike Guleserian.

“It was an important win for our kids because they handled us very easily back in December,” Burlington coach Bob Conceison said. “I think it was important to have a good performance tonight and I thought we played a real good all-around game and I thought Mike (Guleserian) was tremendous.”

Senior captain Joey Scali scored the game’s first goal late in the first period when he buried the rebound of a Josh Boulos point shot past Reading goalie, Ian Lapham.

Scali, who went without a goal in the first seven games of the season, would also set up the Devil’s second goal.

He cruised into the offensive zone down the right wing board and sent a cross ice pass to Robby McLean who ripped a slap shot inside the left post from a tough angle below the left face-off circle to give Burlington a cushion with 8:22 left in the game.

“I thought this was a big win for us,” said Scali. “I have really meshed with my line mates over the last few games. We got to keep it going. We have a big stretch of games coming up.”

After mustering just three first period shots, the Rockets turned up the pressure in the second and third periods but could not solve Guleserian (20 saves) who continues to provide the Devils a solid backstop.

Rockets sputtering: The Rockets are on a streak of their own but headed in the wrong direction, as the loss put the always respected Rockets at 0-5-2 over their last seven games and 6-7-2 overall.

Make no mistake about it, the Rockets play one of the toughest schedules in the state for a public school team but their recent lack of punch has coach Mark Doherty looking for answers.

“We are getting chances but are just not finishing,” said Doherty. “Their goalie was strong tonight and they are always tough in their barn. I thought we had a good amount of chances but we just need to keep working at it.”

The Rockets have seven games to turn things around and will be a real tough out should they land in the Division I North tournament.

Line of defense: While Guleserian continues his strong season, the Red Devils four defensemen have provided little breathing room for opponents.

Having two shutdown pairs of defensemen is a luxury for coach Bob Conceison.

Senior captain Adam Crowley is paired with sophomore Shane O’Halloran while junior Mike Bibbey and sophomore Josh Boulos provide a second shut down pairing. They were all part of last year’s Division I state champions and their experience has stabilized the Devils defensive zone.

The numbers bear out the impressive results as Burlington is allowing just 1.6 goals per game and have allowed opponents to score three or more goals just twice this season.

“They have been so good in front of me,” said Guleserian. “They make my job a whole lot easier back there and I am lucky to have those guys playing in front of me.”

Recap: No. 14 Reading 3, Winchester 3

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
WOBURN, Mass. -- With time ticking down, Reading was in desperation mode.

The Rockets trailed Middlesex League (Liberty Division) rival Winchester by a goal and were doing everything humanly possible inside the offensive zone to deadlock this tilt. In the game of hockey, never underestimate the unexpected.

With less than two minutes remaining, Reading defenseman Mike Seibold gained control of the puck just inside the Sachems' blue line. The junior flung, what he anticipated as a pass, towards the trapezoid behind the Winchester net. Seibold's aim, however, turned out to be a little better than he first thought. The puck wound up knuckling towards Sachem goaltender James Offner, bouncing in front of the senior and deflecting off the shaft of his stick and into the back of the net at 13:03 of the third period giving Reading a 3-3 tie, Saturday night at Ned O'Brien Ice Rink.

"I was aiming to dump the puck around the boards and it sort of caught the blade of my stick and it bounced in front of their goalie and went in," said Seibold. "We had a flat second period so we wanted to redeem ourselves in the third. We wanted to hang in with them because we know they are a good team. We have a bunch of new kids on the team this year so we need to rely on each other than individuality here. We are starting to play more as a team this year."

The Rockets (6-2-1, 5-1), jumped out to a quick two goal lead before watching in vein as Sachems senior forward Brendan Greene notched a natural hat trick, with a goal in the first period and two more in the second, staking his team out to a 3-2 advantage. Two of his three markers came off the power play.

For most of the final frame, Winchester was playing a game of dump and chase in an effort of making Reading work the full-length of the ice in its attempts to nab the equalizer. For all but the final two minutes of the period, the strategy worked. However the Rockets are much to talented a bunch to hold off for an entire 15 minutes and it showed.

"We got a break," Reading head coach Mark Doherty said. "I did think we played a good first and third period. The second period we had some penalties and got a little lethargic. But Winchester has some very good offensive talent. When you give them power plays they are going to score goals."

The Rockets appeared as though they would run the Sachems (3-2-4, 2-1-4) right out of the rink early on. Junior Sean Verrier got Reading off on the right foot after taking a nice cross-ice feed from Mike Thomson and burying a shot past Offner (22 saves) just 2:17 into the contest.

Two minutes later, it was Thomsan's turn to light the lamp. The forward blew past the Winchester defense down the right half boards and slipped a shot by Offner, putting the Rockets ahead by a pair.

But the tide of this game began to shift shortly thereafter. Reading was called for consecutive penalties midway through the frame giving the Sachems a 5-on-3 advantage. Just several seconds into the power play, Greene capitalized, going top shelf over Ian Lapham (16 saves) to cut the deficit in half.

During the middle period, it was all Winchester. For whatever reason, the Rockets left their opening period intensity in the locker room and looked like they were skating on egg shells in fear of sending another player in the penalty box.

That proved to be more than enough for the Sachems to take advantage. Greene bagged his second score at 2:05, skating behind the Reading net and firing a laser past Lapham from the right point to knot things at 2-2.

The Greene show would continue a few minutes later. Catching the Rockets defense back on their heels, Winchester parlayed an odd-man rush into a go-ahead score at 6:18 as Greene converted a quick wrist shot 15 feet in front giving the Sachems a one goal lead.

"We had a tough time getting the puck out in the third and we need to do a better job at finishing," Sachems head coach Matt Sprang said. "We dug a whole for ourselves in that first period and against a club like that you need to play a whole 45 minutes. In the second period we played well but just couldn't finish. Brendan played well for us. He's a senior and a captain so we expect him to play well for us."

While Reading continued a lack of execution for the remainder of the period, the defense did just enough in keeping it a one-goal margin heading into the final frame. During the early stages of the third, the Rockets had difficulty getting the puck beyond the red line as Winchester's forwards and defensemen worked in unison, applying pressure to any Rocket with the puck on his stick.

But in the final minutes, the Sachems left Seibold unattended at the blue line and he made them pay dearly with his tying tally. A few seconds later, the Rockets spoiled a golden opportunity to seize victory when Jake Barbera's open shot rang off the post before the two teams skated out the closing seconds.

"Obviously whenever you come into this rink whether it be playing Woburn or (Winchester) it has sort of been a nemesis of ours," Doherty said. "We had a good start in that first period. But we knew Winchester is good offensively. We were down 3-2 late so I'm just happy to escape with a tie at this point. It's high school hockey and funny things can happen sometimes."

Recap: No. 19 Reading 6, Burlington 1

December, 19, 2013
READING, Mass. – On Wednesday, Reading was a step faster, hit a G-force harder, and more sound fundamentally as the No. 19 Rockets cruised past Burlington, 6-1, at Burbank Ice Arena.

The Rockets scored the first three goals and finished off the Red Devils with three goals in a 3-minute, 2-second span in the third.

Jake Barbera led Reading with two goals and an assist. Liam O'Neill had a goal and an assist and Ian Lapham turned aside 21 shots for his second win of the season.

“I'm thrilled to get off to a 2-0 start,” Reading coach Mark Doherty said. “Truthfully, I didn't what to except at the start [of the season] with the massive turnover.”

The bulk of Reading’s goals came off of Burlington turnovers or converted rebounds. Both of Barbera's goals were cleaned up rebounds and Reading's first goal, scored by Rob DiLoreto, was initiated after O'Neill picked off a pass at the blue line to start an odd-man rush.

Burlington coach Bob Conceison said that it was a bad day for his team.

“We're definitely inexperienced but so isn't Reading. I thought they played really really well. I have to go home and decide if it was more how poorly we played or how well they played. I'm sure it was a combination of the two.

“We have to try to make more plays. We're reluctant to make more plays offensively and I think we have to make more plays.”

Burlington scored with eight seconds left in the second period to make it a 3-1 game at the intermission, but a controversial goal early in the third gave momentum back to Reading.

After, what looked like a stop, a shot by Matt Thomson something that sounded like a whistle blew but the referee immediately called the play a goal. Burlington complained and Conceison was incensed, but the goal stood and it took the wind out of Burlington's sails.

“I heard a whistle,” Conceison said. “ I think it was more emotion on my part; I can't see from the bench how it went in. I thought the whistle blew before the puck went in. My guys were saying the puck didn't go in. We didn't lose the game because of that. I felt it was more of a momentum thing. We got that goal at the end of the period and thought we could jump back into the game.”

DEFENSIVE SUCCESS: Reading only had five more shots than Burlington, but it seemed like a whole lot more because the Rockets' defense forced Burlington into numerous low-percentage shots.

An inexperienced defensive group was aided by strong two-way play by the forwards and it made for a mostly easy night for Lapham in goal.

“We've got a very young set of defensmen so we're doing everything we can to help out in the D zone,” Barbera said. “We just want to have a three-zone team.”

After surrendering three goals against Wilmington in the season opener, Doherty said he was pleased with his team's performance in their own end.

“Truthfully, I thought our D looked noticeably better tonight than it did against Wilmington,” Doherty said. “ I drew that as an area of improvement.”

Super 8: Austin Prep 1, Reading 0

March, 7, 2013

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.”

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.”

Super 8: Austin Prep 2, Reading 1

March, 4, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. – Round 1 of the intra-city series goes to the boys on Willow Street.

Sophomore Elijah Harris carried a shutout into the final 30 seconds, and goals from freshmen Jake McKenelley and Eric MacAdams helped guide Austin Prep to a 2-1 win over crosstown rival Reading at Tsongas Arena in Game 1 of this best-of-three Super 8 quarterfinal series.

The Rockets, who got a goal from senior Ryan Thomson with 22.2 seconds remaining, will look to even the score Wednesday night at Stoneham Arena.

McKenlley scored for the Cougars (14-1-6) at 4:52 of the first, crashing the net and finishing a rebound off a shot from sophomore Bob Carpenter, who had made a nice rush down the left wing. Prep played solid defense from there on out, and Harris (24 saves) took care of the rest.

“I’m proud of our guys, because maintaining a 1-0 lead from the first period to the third period, that’s something to build off of, especially against a great team,” Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said.

MacAdams effectively ended the game with 41.9 seconds to play, scoring on an empty-net from his own zone. Thomson’s goal made it interesting, but Prep was able to run out the rest of the clock to hold on for the win.

MacAdams’ goal came with Reading skating 6-on-4, as Cougar junior defenseman Andrew Cross was sent to the box for a hit to the head with 1:48 remaining. Reading (16-2-5) had a few good chances to tie it, the best coming just seconds before MacAdams’ goal when a shot by junior Mike Thomson from the right circle took a deflection before Harris made a good pad save.

Harris also robbed Mike Thomson on a point-blank chance early in the second period, and his overall performance showed he was up to the challenge of playing in the Super 8.

“He played unbelievable,” McKenelley said of Harris. “He held us in there at the end. He’s a great goalie.”

Harris’ counterpart, Reading senior Evan Morelli, made 29 saves and played a strong game in his own right. Prep attacked the Rockets’ net with a flurry of shots in the middle of the second period, culminating in Morelli making a great double-save on MacAdams and then senior Nolan Vesey on the rebound with 4:33 to play in the frame.

“He’s very good, and we need him to be very good. That’s his job,” Reading head coach Mark Doherty said of Morelli. “If you wanna’ be that guy, you need to play well, and he’s a very good goaltender. I think, basically, he’s right up there with the best in the state.”

McKenelly was the only player to beat Morelli on the night, continuing a strong freshman campaign that saw him enter the tournament as Prep’s third-leading goal-scorer with 11.

“He played as an eighth-grader for us last year and he had a solid season, and he’s having a solid season for us this year from start to finish,” Finocchiaro said.

Prep also got a good performance from its defensemen. The pairings of Cross and senior Zach Fuller, and sophomore Matt Morgan and freshman J.J. Layton, refused Reading’s forwards the space to operate in front of the net.

Both Finocchiaro and McKennelley said Prep’s defense was a team effort.

“We weren’t letting them get three-on-twos or odd-man rushes,” McKenelley said. “We just kinda’ kept it out of the zone and try to play more offense than defense.”

The shots wound up being fairly even – Austin Prep 31, Reading 25 – but the Rockets will look to create more quality chances in Game 2 Wednesday. Face-off is set for 7:45 p.m.

Recap: No. 4 Reading 3, No. 12 Wilmington 1

February, 16, 2013

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Three weeks ago, Reading head coach Mark Doherty made some changes to his offense, moving senior captain Rob Devaney onto a line with Jake Barbera and Mike Thomson in hopes of sparking something within the Rockets system.

In Saturday's Middlesex League crossover matchup against Wilmington, that unit came through in the clutch as Barbera had a goal and an assist while Devaney popped the eventual game-winning goal with 3:07 left to play as the fourth-ranked Rockets bested the 12th-ranked Wildcats, 3-1, at Ristuccia Arena.

"Midway through the season, we weren't getting much offense so we just tried to shake up the lines," Devaney explained. "Obviously, we've all played with each other since we we've been about five years old so it wasn't too much, just to get something new in the system. We tried changing the system a little bit and I think it paid off. We're coming our harder, getting more opportunities, getting more shots and that's the kind of team we are. Get shots and go to the net hard."

"We always know where each other are," he added. "We always keep that third guy high. We cycle the puck real well. I'm one of the smaller guys but Jake Barbera is a big kid and he creates room for me and Mike and we're able to just pass it back and forth and get good shots for rebounds."

With the game tied, 1-1, heading into the third period, Reading (15-1-5) caught Wilmington (14-3-1) in a line change and defenseman Andrew Lawrence intercepted a clearing attempt and chipped the puck forward to start a three-on-two break. Barbera collected the carom and slid a quick pass back to Devaney, who fired a shot inside the far post.

"I think we caught them in a line change," Devaney explained. "We came down on a three-on-two rush. I got a drop pass with a kid stepping up on me. I tried to shoot it to get it on net, didn't want it to get blocked and it ended up going in. Obviously a huge goal with about three minutes left in the game."

The Rockets first goal came just 38 seconds into the second period, when Barbera got position in front of the Wilmington goal and tipped home a shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Mike Seibold to tie the game.

"They are one of the best teams I've seen this year, including all the parochial schools, et cetera," Doherty said in praise of Wilmington. "I think they've got as good a forward [in Cam Owens] as there is in the state, bar none. He's right there with the best of them. We knew coming in, with the event that was planned here, it was going to be an interesting environment. Thank goodness it went our way. It could have gone either way truthfully. Both goalies are very good. I'm grateful it broke our way in the long run."

With both teams on the Super 8 watch list, it added a heightened level of excitement to the proceedings. For Reading, their status was likely secure beforehand and certainly must be cemented now. The goal for the Rockets will be to finish strong in the season finale against Arlington, and look to improve where they will end up seeded in the tournament field.

"We always look forward to playing in it," Doherty said. "I would like to think we'll be nominated. I try to stay as humble as I can about things but my goodness, I think we've shown this year that we're one of the better teams in the state."

Added Devaney, "I think we've proved it so far. Every team goes through a couple slumps here and there but then again, our last loss was December 29th at BC High and it was only a 2-0 game that could have gone either way. I think we're up there with every other team that's ranked high so I think we deserve it."

Wilmington's dream of joining the field as a Division 2 squad most likely came to an end with the loss. The reigning Div. 2 state champions figure they needed to win out to even have a chance of being considered for a nomination, much less inclusion in the field.

"Obviously it's an honor to be mentioned with them and all that but we really would have to win out," admitted Wildcats coach Steve Scanlon. "We would have had to beat these guys to even be really considered and for a division two team, it's a lot. It's a testament to our guys, they've played really good over the last couple of years so to even get mentioned with them is pretty good."

Wilmington dedicated the game to longtime team bus driver, Judy Tipton Lee, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Diease, in Oct. 2011. The teams wore special jerseys with a ribbon and the words 'Judy's Wildcats' emblazoned on the front, and every player wore Lee's name on their backs, while fans wore similar tshirts.

The Wildcats got off to a good start as Brendan McDonough took a backhanded pass from Cam Owens and buried his shot from the lower, left wing circle at 4:45 of the first period.

Goalie Drew Foley was also stellar, turning aside 27 shots and keeping his team in the game.

"Especially early, he was unbelievable," said Scanlon in praise of Foley. "He held us in it. He's been pretty much our MVP. He holds you in the games, the kids are comfortable playing in front of him and they play with a lot of confidence. He's quite a goalie."

A bounce or two the other way and this game could have played out differently. Midway through the third period with the game still tied, a backhander by Steve DeFuria went between the pads of Reading goalie Evan Morelli (20 saves) and trickled through to the goal line. Morelli dove on it quickly, but it was hard to tell whether or not the puck had crossed the line first. The official was stationed right along the red line and immediately waved it off.

Then, with 31 seconds left in the game, Wilmington drew a crucial icing call that gave them a faceoff to Morelli's right with an extra skater as Foley headed to the bench. Reading's Ryan Thomson won the draw and defenseman Matt McLelland quickly skated off the right wing and sent a shot the length of the ice for an empty-netter.

"When do you see the draw go right to the guy and he sends it up the river?" Scanlon mused afterward with a smile. "We would have liked to get something going there with the extra guy. It is a game of inches, right? Some days they go with you, some days they don't. It was a good game, good experience for my kids."

Recap: No. 5 Reading 3, No. 24 Burlington 2

February, 5, 2013

READING, Mass. -- No. 5 Reading nearly skated Middlesex League rival Burlington out of the barn after one period of hockey Monday night. The Rockets opened up a shooting gallery in the Red Devils’ zone and, had it not been for the efforts of Burlington goaltender Derek DeCastro, things easily could have gotten out of hand fast.

Even though Reading went on to outshoot the Red Devils by a combined 35-17 margin, the action was a lot closer.

In the words of Rockets head coach Mark Doherty, “It was a Reading, Burlington hockey game.”

Reading prevailed, escaping with a 3-2 win over the No. 24 Red Devils, thanks to a two-goal game from junior forward Jake Barbera. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked and, as the Burlington power play opportunities racked up, it came down to a diligent group of penalty killers who made the difference for the Rockets (13-1-4, 9-0-3).

Although Reading seemed to be waltzing away with two points, holding a 3-1 lead late in the second period, the Red Devils (6-4-5, 5-3-5) got back into it with their potent power play.

Senior captain C.J. Grinnell made a tape-to-tape across the width of the ice surface to set up Joe Berardi’s half-slap, one-timer for a goal on the man-advantage with 4:22 remaining in the third.

Burlington had two sterling opportunities to notch the equalizer in the third, with two additional power plays, but the Rockets were game. Reading limited the Red Devils’ man-up unit to just one shot on goal in their final two power play chances, playing a stifling brand of defense in front of goaltender Evan Morelli.

“We have some good penalty killers,” Doherty said. “You talk about [Mark] Dente, [Rob] Devaney, [Mike] Thomson, they all know what they have to do. They know that they just have to rise to the situation.”

The Rockets claimed a 2-1 lead at the first break, after peppering DeCastro (32 saves) with a barrage of 15 shots on goal.

Reading drew first blood when Dente collected a nifty saucer pass from Alex Guarnotta and slipped behind the Burlington defense for a partial breakaway. Dente finished on the backhand for a 1-0 lead at 6:06.

Red Devils defenseman evened the score at 11:09 of the first, stepping up from the blue line, snatching a clearing attempt and firing off a wrister on an unassisted goal.

The Rockets went to the room with a one-goal lead after Barbera tallied his first of the game, putting back a rebound off a shot from Devaney. Barbera followed with his second of the game just 14 seconds into the second period.

Again, the rangy winger’s net-front presence paid dividends.

“We know that we have guys who can get it to the net,” Barbera said. “We have skill guys who can have a presence on the wall, they can definitely move the puck well. I know when they’re coming down the boards, we’re just getting it to the net … Robby [Devaney] and Mike [Thomson] were able to get it to the net.”

Barbera deposited the rebound from a Thomson slapper to provide the Rockets with a two-goal cushion.

However, Burlington again cut the deficit with Berardi’s power-play blast.

“They’re a bigger, a stronger, an older team, I think you could see that all night,” Burlington head coach Bob Conceison said. “But I liked the way our kids battled. I was real happy with our third period and we had some power plays in the third period that they killed and they made some good plays.”


Recap: No. 5 Reading 1, No. 8 Hingham 1

January, 21, 2013

READING, Mass. -- Reading boys' hockey got the best of the power play early, but could not hold onto a late lead against fellow Super 8 contender Hingham on Monday.

Despite a six-minute disadvantage in penalties, the host No. 5 Rockets (9-1-4) entered the final two minutes with the only man-up goal and a 1-0 edge. However, a late unassisted effort by the Harbormen’s Andrew Flynn equalized for No. 8 Hingham (8-4-1) to force a 1-1 tie between the public school powerhouses at Burbank Arena.

“Having a lot of power plays is a good thing, but it’s not really a great thing because your top guys are playing a lot,” said Hingham assistant coach John Mahoney, who was filling in behind the bench for Tony Messina. “When you do not convert, they are out there even more. It was a broken play just inside the blue line and Andrew Flynn did a great job keeping the play alive.”

Flynn netted the game-equalizing score immediately after winning a faceoff in the neutral zone. The senior defender caught a one-on-one situation with the goalie off the victory and chipped the puck in off the keeper's blocker for the 1-1 tie with 1:51 left in the game.

“I saw a lot of my players crashing the net and I saw a little bit of shortside, so I just tried to shoot it,” Flynn said. “We had been trying to win it back all game. I was trying to punch it through right away.”

Matt McLelland scored the opening goal during a power play late in the second period. The senior saw an opposite post gap on the net and wristed a shot in from in front of the blue line for the 1-0 advantage at 14:13.

“We are always telling them just to pound pucks on net,” Rockets head coach Mark Doherty said. “The puck dropped back to McLelland who can really snap a puck off.”

Reading goalie Evan Morelli knocked away 28 shots, while opposing goaltender John Grenier made 14 saves (both seniors).

Reading's defense had no trouble battling off its six penalties throughout the first two periods.

The Rockets faced one minute and fifteen seconds of a six-on-four disadvantage at 9:55 in the first period. Reading allowed only two shots during the penalty then grabbed a hooking for a minute and 18 seconds of man-advantage at 11:03. Rockets junior Mike Thomson nearly slipped a breakaway under the keeper in the final seconds of that power play.

“That obviously was our strong suit today,” Doherty said of his power-play defense. “We have had enough practice. There are systems and we work it a decent amount.”

In the third of four second period Hingham power plays, Habormen center Matt Brazel caught the goalie offset on a two-on-one with fellow junior forward Sam D'Auntuono at 7:45. Brazel slipped the puck in front of net before the keeper could slide to the opposite post, but D'Auntuono shot into Morelli's chest for the save.

“When you have power plays you have to take advantage of them,” Mahoney said. “Get the puck in deep [and] keep it out of our own end. We are not trying to pick corner [just get] shots on net.”

Recap: No. 2 BC High 2, No. 5 Reading 0

December, 30, 2012
BOSTON -- Two goals in the opening period turned out to be enough for BC High in its Top 5 showdown against Reading on Saturday afternoon at UMass-Boston. The No. 2 Eagles held on for a 2-0 victory (their third shutout of the season), but rode their luck against a spirited No. 5 Rockets squad that had two apparent goals disallowed.

Reading (4-1-1) had plenty of chances to get the goals it needed, but the Rockets went 0-7 on the power play including two, 2-man advantages that each lasted longer than a minute.

BC High head coach John Flaherty credited his team’s penalty kill and senior goalie Peter Cronin for pulling out the win.

“The defense battled, but as they always say, your best penalty kill is your goalie,” Flaherty said. “We killed some 5-on-3’s down the end and we were running around and he made some very big saves there to keep it where it was.”

Flaherty added about his star netminder, “He’s focused, you know, he’s seeing the puck very well right now. He’s in the zone. It is little movements but they’re important ones.”

Reading head coach Mark Doherty also pointed to his team’s struggles on the power play as a deciding factor in the team not getting the result against the Eagles.

“Truthfully, I don’t think we’ve dedicated, obviously, enough time to it in practice, which is on me,” he explained.

BC High (5-0) took the lead at 2:54 of the first period with a power play goal by Pat Kramer. The sophomore forward redirected a shot from the point by captain Tom Besinger. Sam Topham was also credited with an assist.

With just under eight minutes remaining in the period, the Eagles struck again.

Steve DeForge sent the puck around the boards behind the net to Tim Larocque, who fired a great pass through the crease to the back post where Connor Noonan was on-hand to tap into the open net.

Reading had a great chance to get on the board within five minutes of the start of the second period, but a brilliant 3-on-2 move ended with a shot off the post. Mark Dente and Mike Thomson combined to create an open net opportunity, but Robert Devaney could not apply the finish.

Reading showed the ability to skate with the Eagles and created a number of scoring chances through the team’s speed but Cronin was always there to stymie the Rockets.

After the game, Cronin spoke about his team’s focus on getting off to a good start in a tough game.

“The past couple of games, we’ve had pretty bad first periods, so we wanted to come out here and set the tone early on,” Cronin said. “We were treading water for a little bit there, but we pulled it out and that’s what good teams do.”

Despite the score line, Doherty was impressed by his team’s effort in its third game in four nights and the way that the Rockets competed against one of the top teams in the state.

“I’m proud of my kids’ effort for the second and third period,” he said. “I thought we fought hard for two periods against a very good hockey team.”

The third period was stop-start because a number of penalties on both sides. The best chance down the stretch fell to the Eagles Michael Brooks on a breakaway after Reading defenseman Mike Seibold broke his stick. Brooks flew into the zone but his shot sailed wide of goalie Evan Morelli (18 saves).

Flaherty admitted after the game that his team had to bear down and grind out a result to stay unbeaten ahead of Wednesday’s showdown with No. 1 Malden Catholic.

He said, “Reading’s historically a very good team and I would say that this as good a team as they’ve had. They compete and they’re fighting for one last shot to make it to the Garden.”

Recap: No. 13 Reading 4, No. 5 BC High 2

February, 17, 2012
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."

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."

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."

Recap: No. 23 Billerica 5, Reading 2

December, 30, 2011

READING, Mass. -- It’s been a while since No. 23 Billerica won the Ed Burns Hockey Classic, but on Thursday, the Indians finally earned the tournament crown, as they defeated the Reading Rockets, 5-2.

“This has been like the tale of two cites [because] we either play well or we play bad, and tonight we played well, so I’m happy for them,” Billerica head coach Mike Mastrullo said.

The Indians were led by junior defensemen Russ Tedford (1 G, 1 A) and senior Arthur Raposo (1 G, 1 A) as well as senior Jack Jenkins, who was responsible for setting up his team’s first three goals.

“We had a line that started as sophomores as third line, and then last year they played as a second line, and then I broke them up because we had some new talent that I thought they’d be able to compliment each other," Mastrullo said. "We did a lot more thinking then we did doing in that combination, so we switched back to Arty Raposo, Jack Jenkins and Brandon Kuzmich, and that was the difference in the game."

Despite trailing Reading by one goal in the opening period, Jenkins connected with Raposo, who netted Billerica’s first score of the evening before senior Nicholas Scarpaci beat the Rockets junior goaltender Evan Morelli (19 saves) in the second period.

The Indians extended their lead on their first shot of the third period when Tedford sailed the puck from Reading’s blue line, which bounced off the far side wall before reaching the back of the net.

“I was just trying to get it up the glass in their zone, and by the dividers, [and somehow it made it to net],” said Tedford when asked to describe his third period goal.

Reading responded nearly three minutes later when junior Connor Frazier cut right in front of the Billerica net, and beat the Indians senior goaltender Bob Bourgeois (22 saves). However, the Indians stormed back during the final eight minutes, and scored two more goals, which came off the sticks of freshman Matthew Culot and Kuzmuch to secure their third win of the season.

“Five [goals] is more than we’ve scored in the last previous four [contests],” Mastrullo said. “We changed some lines, changed things up, but I think it’s about hard work. If you followed us last year, we worked hard, and we worked as a team, and each night, someone new is going to step up, and I think that’s the story of our success. And sometimes, I think it takes them a little bit longer to get there, but it took a year and a half the last time we started to play well, so now it’s a little bit sooner.”

The Rockets Will Learn From Their Mistakes: After Thursday’s loss, Reading head coach Mark Doherty admitted that while his young team has taken their lumps, he’s confident that the Rockets will bounce back and become a better unit by season’s end.

“We’re young, [and] I think we’re going to be a lot better at the end of the year than we are right now, and again, we just have to get healthy, in my opinion," Doherty said. "We have to jam the net front to score. As you saw, they had a couple goals where kids got in tight, and just picked top corners. We’re not as adept as that as them, and could have something to do with age [because we’re a young team], but again, Billerica’s good, [and] I thought it was a pretty good hockey game overall.”

Thursday’s loss also marked the end of a three-game winning streak, which featured victories against Arlington, Wilmington and Xaverian.

“For the New Year, I just want to get healthy, try to play with a full team, and see what can happen,” Doherty said. “We know what we have to work on, and we’re going to work on it.”

Reading's Doherty passes away

March, 7, 2011
Sad news for the hockey world. One day after the first round of this year's Super Eight tournament, former Reading head coach Peter Doherty, who helmed the Rockets to their rise as the first public school to win the Division 1A tournament in 2008, died at the age of 72 on Sunday.

Doherty spent 29 years as the head of Reading hockey before passing the torch to his son, Mark, who took over the program following the 2009 season. He was involved in a car accident in December and endured complications from injuries sustained.

Doherty's passing was first reported by the Boston Herald.