When the Reading boys’ hockey team makes the 15-mile ride to TD Garden, it makes it count.
Six years after becoming the first public high school to win the Super 8 title, the Rockets returned to Boston to claim the school’s first Division 1 championship, besting Braintree, 4-1, on Sunday.
“This team, from where they were at the beginning of the season, to what’s happened, has been more improbable,” said Reading coach Mark Doherty, who graduated 19 seniors from last year’s squad. “We knew that 2008 team had a chance to win it. This, in certain aspects, was more amazing.”
The Rockets (17-8-2) opened the scoring at 7:13 of the first period when Michael Thomson skated deep into the Wamps zone down the left wing, drawing enough of the defense to thread a pass into the slot that was buried by Jake Barbera.
Given the first man advantage of the game with less than five minutes to play in the first period, Reading’s Matt Thompson (goal, assist), Michael’s brother, pounced on the opportunity, firing home a power-play goal from the left circle for a 2-0 lead.
A determined Braintree team pulled within a goal in the second period while in the midst of a delayed penalty call.
With the referee’s arm up to signal the Reading infraction, Braintree refused to allow the Rockets to touch the play dead and before the Wamps (16-6-3) could get their extra attacker on, Nick Ward struck for a goal. Cycling up from the low right corner to the circle, Ward snapped a shot past goalie Ian Lapham (26 saves) to make it a one-goal game at 10:14 of the second.
It took Reading a little over two minutes to regain a two-goal advantage when, on a two-on-two rush, Mike Seibold (three assists) dished to Sean Verrier, who pulled back on the defense and wristed a forehand shot home, making it 3-1.
“I actually thought Seibold was going to shoot that one,” said Verrier. “Then he slid it across, I got it out of the corner of my eye, the defenseman overplayed me, I shifted and just put it on net.”
“The puck didn’t bounce our way tonight,” said Braintree coach Dave Fasano. “I thought when we got it to 2-1, we had a little bit of momentum and obviously that next shift killed us.”
Braintree, which outshot the Rockets, 27-17, put pressure on Lapham down the stretch, but Michael Thomson (goal, assist) sunk the Wamps’ hopes when he potted an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining.
“We had more pressure on us because six years ago [Reading] won [the Super 8],” said Michael Thomson. “We wanted to do it again. We did and it feels pretty awesome.”
“You need luck, you need breaks,” said Doherty. “[Braintree’s] forwards are very scary, so I’m grateful it went the way it did.”
Reading’s victory marks the third straight by a Middlesex League team in the Division 1 final.