A public works project; Champs construct historic finish to season

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Posted: March 23rd, 2008 by Tom Nolette

A public works project; Champs construct historic finish to season
By Bruce Lerch / In the Slot  |   Sunday, March 23, 2008  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  High School Hockey
 

The 2007-08 hockey season ended like no other during the last 30 years: A public school was standing atop the highest mountain.

The Reading Rockets ensured the past year will forever stand in the history books, becoming the first public school to capture the Super Eight championship in the 18-year history of the tournament, defeating BC High, Catholic Memorial, Waltham and Xaverian before blanking Malden Catholic, 3-0, in the title game. In the process, Reading (25-1) also became the first public school to win the championship of Massachusetts’ highest level of hockey since Hudson won the Division 1 crown in 1978.

“I realize exactly what we accomplished,” said longtime Reading coach Peter Doherty. “Our kids were just great. They took each game just like they would any other game. They were pretty cool through the tournament, and the way they were able to keep their composure was just amazing.”

In his ***29 years ***at the helm of the Rockets, Doherty admitted he had never before been blessed with the kind of depth the Rockets displayed this season. Led by the dazzling top line of center Michael Lozzi and wingers Pat Kiley and Rob Toczylowski, who combined for 164 points during the regular season, Reading had more than enough firepower to be successful.

In order to be called the best team in Massachusetts, Doherty knew they would need more than just offense to get the job done. The defensive trio of Travis Busch, Garrett Collins and Quinlan Junta contributed key goals throughout the Rockets’ run, and junior goalie Jeff Wyer made big save after big save en route to the championship.

“We’ve never had depth like we had this year,” Doherty said. “Our second and third lines had a great tournament, our defense was very good, and Jeff Wyer was excellent in goal all year long.”

Doherty reflected back to the Rockets only loss of the season, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of BC High on Martin Luther King Day. He knew before then that he had a potentially great team to work with, but the way they played against the Eagles cemented his belief that the Rockets were truly special.

“I thought all along we had a real good team. We played really good against BC High in that game, but their goalie (Sam Marotta) just won the game for them. We made one or two mistakes that cost us, but I knew we could compete at the highest level.”

Two of the wild card teams that were eliminated from the Super Eight made their presence felt in the Division 1 tournament, as Needham and Westford Academy each worked their way to the state final, with Needham (20-3-2) claiming a 4-1 victory, thanks to a pair of goals by Cody Sharib, to win its first state championship since 1970.

In Division 2, freshman goaltender Pat Farrington posted shutouts in the South sectional and the state final, and Sandwich got a goal off the stick of Craig Brubaker to sneak past a tough Wilmington squad with a 1-0 victory, giving the Blue Knights their first state title.

Scituate found itself dealing with a tragedy, when sophomore defenseman Tim Mahoney was killed in a car accident on Feb. 2. The Sailors went into an understandable funk but rallied behind Mahoney’s older brother Pat and rolled through the Division 3 South sectional tournament as the 15th seed to earn a chance to defend their state title. The Sailors routed Marblehead, 8-2, in the semifinals, but saw their inspirational run come to a close at TD Banknorth Garden with a 3-2 loss to a very physical Westfield team, which had knocked off perennial CMass. power Gardner in the other semifinal.

The girls saw a bit of history made as well. St. Mary’s Abby Gauthier became the all-time leading scorer in the state, wrapping up her stellar career with 179 goals and 179 assists for a total of 358 points.

The Providence-bound Gauthier was joined on the Spartans top line by sophomore Courtney Winters and senior Christen Hart, who was moved up from the blue line at midseason, St. Mary’s tore through the regular season, capping a perfect 25-0 season with a 7-1 drubbing of Wakefield to win the Division 1 state championship.

“It’s taken a while to sink in,” admitted Spartans coach Frank Pagliuca. “The kids are really pleased with their accomplishment, and I know for certain that they will be able to look back and appreciate what they did.”

Hart ended her career with more than 200 points, but depth and the play of Marblehead transfer Kelsey Magrane in net also played a major role in the Spartans’ championship run. The end result was sweet for St. Mary’s, which was the top seed in last year’s tournament but fell short in the semifinals.

“We learned a lot from last year,” Pagliuca said. “We wanted and expected to get back to this point. We learned that we had to worry about what we were doing and not let what our opponents did dictate how we were going to play.”

“Kelsey was a great addition to our team. It’s tough when you transfer in from another school; you never know what you are getting into. She has a great personality and fit right in with the rest of the girls, and once she settled in, she got her confidence going. It can be tough when you don’t face a lot of shots every game, but Kelsey made every big save when we needed them.”

In Division 2, all signs pointed toward a Milton-Hingham matchup for the state title, and neither team disappointed. The top two seeds in the tournament made their respective paths through to the final, where the Harborwomen put an end to Milton’s unbeaten season with a 6-1 victory.

The talented Hingham squad proved to be just too fast and too talented for the competition, led by forwards Stephanie Schlosky, Stephanie Invernizzi and Chrissy Bowler (four goals in the state final). The deciding moment for Hingham came in the semifinals, when they rallied to score three goals in the third period, including the game-winner by Invernizzi with 32 seconds to play, erasing a 3-1 deficit against a defensive-minded Waltham squad to propel themselves into the finals.