Devising a formula for public school success in one of the nation's most recognizable high school hockey tournaments could have been looked at as a pipe dream. The common belief was that Catholic programs would bend, but not break. And, for nearly two decades, it held true.
Until last night.
When the day finally came - when every other school's season was over and when the predicting and second-guessing finally meant nothing, when a public school finally raised the elusive Super 8 trophy - it had to happen with a first line like Reading's leading the way.
State champion Reading - 3-0 victors over fellow Super 8 final debut participant Malden Catholic at TD Banknorth Garden - became the first public school to win the tournament thanks in large part to its elite senior line of center Michael Lozzi (25-47 -72), right wing Pat Kiley (26-45 -71), and left wing Rob Toczylowski (35-30 -65). They left the once unconvinced quiet and persuaded.
"We said it at the beginning of the year, 'We've been together for three years now. We have to do it this year,' " Kiley said. "We did it for the person next to us. And that's why we won."
The four-year varsity trio spent the last three years on Rocket teams that couldn't quite push themselves into Reading lore.
"They're special kids," Reading coach Peter Doherty said. "They had a great year - but they had a great year last year. Every year since they've been together, there's been a different leading scorer in the league. And they're all different."
First, they were freshmen on a team that held a 1-0 lead over Catholic Memorial in the Super 8 semifinals after two periods before a three-goal meltdown in the third period sent Reading home. As sophomores, the expectations of a roster overflowing with talent were never met, as key regular-season losses kept them out of the Division 1A tournament.
And what weighed heaviest on the minds of the trio as it made history this season was last year, when the Rockets entered the Super 8 with their usual hope and anticipation. Their elimination occurred almost as quickly as their arrival, however, as three straight frustrating losses ensued with stunning speed.
"It's just that motivation," said Lozzi after his 12th Super 8 game. "And experience definitely helps. After you go 0-3, it's with you the whole summer, whole fall, and whole winter season. It's all motivation."
None of it matters now. As state champions, each member of the group has carried his unique skill sets into each season, together forming a perfectly versatile line. They stand at the forefront of the greatest season in Reading hockey history (25-1) and the most memorable for any public school since Hudson's victory in 1978.
The results last night were as advertised. Kiley (1 goal, 2 assists) continued his remarkable run through the Super 8. Toczylowski (2 goals) and Lozzi (1 assist) played their usual parts as well.
Kiley, who ran up the scoreboard toward a 5-10 -15 line in the Super 8, struck first to erase a scoreless tie when he rushed in from the right side with 3:19 remaining in the first period. With his usual patience, he found the right moment to flick it past MC netminder John Carbonneau.
Toczylowski followed just 12 seconds into the second period. Off the opening faceoff (and still in the neutral zone), he fired it straight at the net. Carbonneau, in a moment of disbelief, watched as the puck slid past him.
Six minutes later, Toczylowski struck again. After Kiley passed to Lozzi and Lozzi sent a cross-ice feed to Toczylowski, the left winger skated down the left side and fired it in from the circle for the 3-0 lead.
The pattern was what it had been for a line that grew and matured for four years. They stand today as the proud trio that helped do what no public school had ever done.
"It's second nature with them," Toczylowski said. "When you know their moves it's great. Those two are stand-up guys on and off the ice. It was great to play with them. I'm going to miss it."