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."