Mass Girls D1 Final: Reading takes top prize

Gary Demopoulos
Gary Demopouloshttp://www.hnibnews.com
Gary Demopoulos has been covering prep school hockey for the HNIB News for over 30 years, and has been the editor of the HNIB News since 2005. A former sportswriter and news editor at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times Chronicle, he has been the HNIB News' key reporter for Mens Prep School hockey since 1988, as well as womens hockey, both at the prep school and high school levels. for almost 20 years. Gary also helps organize and oversee HNIB's many summer tournaments and festivals for scholastic players.

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READING celebrates its first MIAA Girls D1 state title after 3-0 win over Acton-Boxboro. (Photo by Jamie Callery)
READING celebrates its first MIAA Girls D1 state title after 3-0 win over Acton-Boxboro. (Photo by Jamie Callery)

All season long a key to Reading’s success has been great play in the early going. The Rockets continued that in Sunday’s MIAA Girls Division 1 final.

Reading scored two early first period goals and then added a late empty-netter for a 3-0 win over Acton Boxboro and the school’s first Girls hockey state title.

READING'S Rachel Thomson holds state title plaque aloft after Rockets' 3-0 win over Acton-Boxboro. (Photo by Jamie Callery)
READING’S Rachel Thomson holds state title plaque aloft after Rockets’ 3-0 win over Acton-Boxboro. (Photo by Jamie Callery)

The Rockets swept through four tourney opponents without allowing a single goal, and allowed just 17 goals in 24 games all season

“What really happens is we play great first periods,” said Reading coach Mike Golden. “And in the tournament, it is so tough to come back from two and three-goal deficits. Teams start to get jittery.”

The fast start set the tone for the game, as the Rockets (22-2-0) controlled much of the play, outshooting Acton-Boxboro by an impressive 40-15 margin.

“That’s a damn good team,” said Acton-Boxboro coach Dan Fontas. “We knew what we were in for coming in. I didn’t think we had our legs in the first period, for whatever reason. It just wasn’t our morning.”

The Rockets got the only goal they would need just 2:15 into the first period. During a flurry in front of the Colonials cage, senior Rachel Thomson collected a loose puck to the left of the cage and sweeped home a backhander.

At 5:53, Reading defenseman Skylar Cain fired a shot from the left point that hit some traffic in front of A-B goalie Cali Loblundo. Tori Grimmer was able to pick it out of some skates, wheel and send an along-the-ice shot that just snuck inside the near post for a 2-0 advantage.

READING GOALIE Jessica Strack allow no rebound for Colonials's stars Leah Cardarelli (7) and Megan Barrett (6)
READING GOALIE Jessica Strack allow no rebound for Colonials’s stars Leah Cardarelli (7) and Megan Barrett (6). (Photo by Jamie Callery)

“Having played them earlier this year, I knew a strength would be to jump out to a quick lead,” Golden said. “For us to come out like that, it allowed us to do what we like to do.”

Reading outshot the Colonials 13-4 in the first period and then continued to keep control, outshooting A-B 15-4 in the second stanza, although they could not get another puck past Loblundo, who was outstanding in the Colonials net.

“If not for Cali Loblundo, it might have been 8-0 at that point,” Fontas said. “In order to win, we needed a great game from her and we got. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The Colonials (18-4-3) entered the game with the most prolific line in the state in senior Leah Cardarelli and juniors Megan Barrett and Olivia Keefe. It was a testament to the Reading defense to be able to keep that trio in check, although they had some chances.

RYLEY COLEMAN of Reading fends off an Acton-Boxboro forward during MIAA Girls D1 Final
RYLEY COLEMAN of Reading fends off an Acton-Boxboro forward during MIAA Girls D1 Final. (Photo by Jamie Callery)

“That was huge,” Golden said. “We have Ali (O’Leary) but they have those three players with comparable points to Ali. I was hoping they weren’t on their game today. We didn’t do anything special, just kept a forward high. And, we always had two centers on the ice when they were on and there was a faceoff in our zone.”

“Reading is a good team,” said Cardarelli, who will play field hockey next year at the University of Michigan. “We were prepared, but maybe could have been more prepared. We didn’t play our best first period.”

Fontas pulled Loblundo with just under two minutes to play, and Dani Seibold iced it with an empty net goal from the left wing boards just inside the blue line.

“We knew we could win the Middlesex League,” Golden said. “We were looking at something much bigger. Our goal was to get to the final four. If we got there, then I felt we could be dangerous. Our four defensemen played unbelievable all year, and Jessica Strack in goal, to have her come in in the middle of the season and do what she has done is awesome.

“We went 22-2, so we did worked. I am happy for the kids. They made it work. And to get to center stage today, I am thrilled to be part of it.”

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