Reading, MA – The 6-win Cardinals of Pope Francis traveled to the Burbank Arena for a Martin Luther King Jr Day non-league matinee game against the 6-win Rockets of Reading High School and MassNZ was in the house to catch this marquee matchup.
The first period certainly lived up to the hype with both teams playing fast and physical from the drop of the puck. The momentum swung back and forth in the first half of the period with each team generating some high quality scoring chances. Reading’s defense played a bit sloppy early, leading to a couple of wide open chances in front of goalie Chris Hanifan that luckily missed the net. Pope Francis carried most of the play in the second half of the period. While both goalies made quality saves, Pope Francis goalie Vin Maggi made two gloves saves that were labeled goals to keep the Rockets off the board and kept the score knotted at 0-0.
Pope Francis would get on the board first in the second period. In the third minute, a Reading defenseman pinched in the neutral zone and Pope Francis senior captain Josh Iby would take advantage. Iby chipped the puck by the defenseman at the blue line and carried it with speed into the zone. Cutting to the net he made the second defenseman miss and slid a backhander past Hanifan giving Pope Francis the 1-0 lead. Reading would take a 5-minute boarding major with eight minutes left in the period putting the Cardinals on the power play. The Rockets’ penalty kill was spot on and they controlled most of the 5-minute kill. Pope Francis was a bit loose on their breakout and it cost them when Reading senior forward Mark Boyle stripped the Pope Francis defenseman on the blue line and went in all alone beating Maggi glove side high to tie the game. Then with two minutes left in the period, Pope Francis would once again go on the power play and once again Iby found the back of the net. Streaking down the left side, Iby beat the defensemen wide and cut in on Hanifan beating him to the far post to give Pope the 2-1 lead. Which would be our score after two.
The third period proved to be Reading’s best offensive showing of the game. The first few minutes of the period Pope controlled play and buzzed around Reading’s zone, but they came up empty. Reading took control of the period from there and had created their best chance to tie the game off a perfect tip in the slot by junior forward Matty Fichera, but Maggi was up to the task and gloved it out of the air. Reading’s junior forward Cam Fahey would change the narrative with about five minutes to go in the game. Reading’s junior defender TJ Michel held the blue line keeping the puck in Pope’s zone, and it ended up on Evan Pennucci’s stick. Pennucci drew the Pope defenseman to him and slid the puck to a wide open Fahey who beat Maggi top shelf to tie the game and we would end regulation knotted up at two a piece.
The game would need to be decided in a five minute 4-on-4 overtime period. Both teams had a handful of quality chances but the score remained 2-2 after the final buzzer: an entertaining tilt featuring two of the state’s heavyweights.
1 F Josh Iby, Pope Francis
2 G Vin Maggi, Pope Francis
3 G Chris Hanifan, Reading