THE WAKEFIELD High boys’ hockey team left it all on the ice in a 3-3 OT tie against Reading on Feb. 1 at the Burbank Arena. The Warriors were ranked 8th in the latest Div. 2 power rankings while the Rockets were ranked 6th in Div. 1. (Dan Pawlowski File Photo)
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
READING — The Wakefield High boys’ hockey team, ranked 8th in the latest Div. 2 power rankings, experienced a playoff-atmosphere against Reading at the Burbank Arena on Feb. 1.
Matched up against an imposing student section and the No. 6-ranked team in Div. 1, the Warriors stepped up to the challenge, fighting back in the 3rd period to tie the game less than one minute after the Rockets took the lead, and eventually taking a point from one of the best teams in the Middlesex League as it ended with a 3-3 overtime tie.
“I thought it was a great high school hockey game,” said head coach Mike Geary. “It was back-and-forth. I thought we did a good job keeping up with Reading’s speed and continued to play good team defense.”
The Warriors (7-6-2) have hung their hat on that team defense all season, especially during a six-game winning streak from Jan. 4 to Jan. 21 in which the team only surrendered three total goals in 270 minutes of game play.
Of course, that defense is anchored by senior goalie Dom DeAngelis who collected 20 of his 34 saves against Reading in the first period when the Rockets were trying to send an already buzzing Burbank to another stratosphere, but Wakefield wouldn’t allow it.
Wakefield’s defensemen, senior captain Joe Colliton, sophomore Trevor Veilleux, senior John Regan, junior Liam McNeill and junior Brian Purcell, spent all game battling for possession and position, blocking shots and clearing pucks. Of course, Wakefield’s forwards were just as relentless in protecting their defensive zone. Reading certainly had their chances with those 20 shots in the first, but the Warriors limited them to just 15 total in the next two periods and only two in overtime.
Senior captain Matt Elwell put the offense on his back, scoring two goals, both in the 3rd period, first to take a 2-1 lead then later to tie it at 3-3 after the Rockets came roaring back with two unanswered in the span of just 29 seconds.
Wakefield had more shots in overtime but Reading had the best chance on a potential breakaway that was snuffed out with all-out hustle by Colliton and Veilleux who got back in time to break the play up while DeAngelis poke-checked it away to end the threat. Colliton and Elwell both blocked shots to end the game –fitting for the Warriors who put their bodies in shooting lanes all night.
The first period was an adjustment for Wakefield, playing as the home team in Burbank on paper only. Reading’s impressive speed and passing created chances but DeAngelis was up to every challenge, making any kind of save imaginable as the “home” team escaped with a 0-0 score.
McNeill had one of the best plays of the period, breaking up an early 2-on-1 chance by putting the length of his stick on the ice.
The Warriors killed a penalty with Veilleux blocking a shot with his skate and clearing while DeAngelis made an impressive stop on a deflection.
Later in the period, more blocks, this time from junior Tylor Roycroft and senior Jack Curran, helped set the tone and senior captain Bobby DeFeo had the final block of the period to end one of the most entertaining scoreless periods of hockey you could see.
Both teams finally lit the lamp in the second period. Shot totals were much more even with Wakefield racking up 8 and Reading, 7.
The Warriors turned the tables and were the better team in this frame, an effort that paid off when freshman Andrew Martin scored, unassisted with 4:19 left to open the scoring. Martin’s active stick in the neutral zone deflected a pass attempt and he alertly tapped it around one defenseman, darting with it toward the Reading net with another defenseman closing the angle fast. Martin let loose a wrister from the left dot that beat the goalie, high, near-side.
The Rockets finally solved the DeAngelis puzzle with just 34 seconds left in the 2nd, scoring on a point shot that somehow made its way through heavy traffic into the net.
The four goals scored in the 3rd wasn’t a result of play opening up as much as it was a combination of fatigued defenders and better finishing.
Elwell’s first goal, assisted by DeFeo, was scored on the power play that was earned by senior Sean Hogan who created the advantage with hard work on the boards, eventually leading to a trip. Hogan, Elwell and DeFeo, Wakefield’s first line, settled the Warriors all game and set the tone, defensively in the first two periods before they created more chances in the 3rd.
On the power play goal, DeFeo dished it to Elwell behind the net, and the left-shot hammered home a wrap-around goal with 12:16 left.
The Warriors held on for the next six minutes before Reading found the equalizer on an impressive deflection from an impossible angle with 6:09 left.
On the ensuing faceoff, Reading kept the pressure on and beat DeAngelis near-side with 5:40 left.
With the Burbank shaking, Wakefield’s top line settled things down again and the Warriors refused to back down. On a Rocket breakout attempt, Hogan forced the puck carrier to the middle and Elwell jumped on a mishandle and quickly released it from the left dot; the goalie got a piece but it trickled through and the game was tied with 4:50 left, completing a wild stretch of three goals scored in 1:19.
A massive hit from DeFeo got Wakefield’s bench and their own fan base back into it and the Warriors rode that momentum to a quality tie.
“If we can continue to play with that same urgency, we will have success down this final stretch of the regular season and into the postseason,” said Geary.
The Warriors were edged, 2-1, by Watertown on Sunday morning. They will look to complete four season sweeps against Freedom Division foes coming up as they travel to Wilmington tomorrow night, 8 p.m. at Ristuccia, host Melrose on Saturday, 8 p.m. at the Stoneham Arena and Stoneham on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. before traveling to Burlington Ice Palace on Feb. 18 at 2:15 p.m.