Last year The Sachems had a feeling they were one of the better teams in the league.
But nine months and a state title later, Winchester has set the bar for its program. The goal isn't just to win the league or make the playoffs, but return to the state championship game.
It's a different situation for Reading. The Rockets are still trying to figure out who they are. In Wednesday night's opening game, Reading started seven freshmen. After 45 minutes the two sides finished in a scoreless tie at the O'Brien Ice Rink in Woburn.
"Everybody's going to be gunning for us now," said Winchester coach Thomas Johnson. "We have a different team this year, we're younger. But for the first game we did pretty well. We had some breakdowns and luckily they weren't able to capitalize."
Those chances for Reading all came in the third period. The Sachems were able to outshoot Reading in the first period, 19-5 and finished the second period outshooting the Rockets by a similar margin, but by the third Reading's offense came to life.
Reading senior Jordan Bergeron had the first real scoring chance for the Rockets early in the third period, as the forward skated along the right side of the ice into Winchester's zone. Bergeron cut in front of the defender and fired a shot near-post, but Sachem goalie, Meg Creane used her blocker to keep the game tied.
A few minutes later, one of Reading's seven freshmen – Sarah Hart – had the puck wind up at the edge of her stick five feet in front of goal. The forward flicked a wrist-shot at the net, but again Creane brushed it aside.
"(Goalie) Jenn (Toussaint) really kept us in it," said Reading coach Mike Golden. "But then in the third period you we kept working and you saw our youth begin to progress and improve. You saw some of the enthusiasm and ability of the freshmen."
Senior Captain Michaela Chiuccariello nearly put the Sachems on the board on a couple of occasions, but Toussaint came up big for the Rockets each time.
Johnson knows his team has the experience of winning the state title a year ago, but he knows this year is going to be different.
"It's time to move on," Johnson said. "We celebrated what we did and now the bar is set higher than it was last year. We expect to get back there."
As for Reading, an early season test against the defending state champs isn't a bad way to start the season.
"In this league Winchester is definitely the litmus test," Golden said. "There one of the haves, not the have-nots. To play them to a draw, we're definitely pleased."