For the first time in Super 8 history, neither Catholic Memorial, BC High, nor Arlington Catholic will be crowned champion.
Reading could become the first public school to win the championship of the top division in the state since Hudson in 1978 when it takes on Malden Catholic tonight.
The Lancers will carry the parochial torch instead of BC High or Catholic Memorial, who have won all but one of the Super 8 titles in the tournament's 18-year history (Arlington Catholic won in 1997).
The Super 8 final at 7:30 is the last of four boys' hockey state title games at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Rockets' top line of Pat Kiley, Mike Lozzi, and Rob Toczylowski is a coach's dream. Kiley has sweet hands and vision, Toczylowski is a classic power forward, and smooth centerman Lozzi is the most complete player of the group.
But Reading's defensemen could make more of a difference. Garrett Collins, Travis Busch, Quinlan Junta, and John Michael Leach skate and shoot well and aren't averse to physical play.
Rockets goalie Jeff Wyer wasn't tested often in the regular season, but he hasn't allowed any soft goals in the tournament.
Greg Crovo the Lancers' best all-around player, controlling the game from the blue line. Forwards Andrew Cerretani, Craig Carbonneau, and Jason Yeomelakis bear watching as well.
If the Lancers can tire out Reading's top line, they should do well. But if Kiley, Toczylowski, and Lozzi control the puck for long stretches, it could be a long night for MC goalie John Carbonneau.
Westford vs. Needham, 5 p.m. - Second chances are sweet. The two Super 8 play-in losers end up at the Garden anyway in a clash of opposing styles.
Westford began the postseason with a loss in a shootout after a scoreless game with Waltham, and needed overtime to get by St. Mary's in the quarterfinals. But the Ghosts hit the throttle, pounding St. Bernard's and Austin Prep by a combined score of 15-2. Senior Craig Cardone is Westford's top threat, but goals could come from any of three lines or the blue line. The Ghosts are aggressive, and a shootout-style game works heavily in their favor.
Needham doesn't have a list of proven threats, but the Rockets are a hard-hitting bunch led by defenseman Will Rayner. They've stifled opponents in the tournament - allowing just two goals - but they've scored only five. Seniors Cody Sharib and defenseman-turned-forward Mike Sharpe will hope others step up as the Rockets try to offset the loss of sophomore Michael Cox (shoulder injury).
In net, Westford's Curt Serafini had a few regular-season hiccups, but has dazzled in the tournament. Needham's Sam Gifford has 12 shutouts on the year - nearly half of the team's 25 games. He'll have to play well for Needham to win its first title since Robbie Ftorek's heyday.
Sandwich vs. Wilmington, 2:45 p.m. - It's a battle of teams that dominated the regular season but haven't had a chance on the big stage. Both have shined in the spotlight so far. The Knights and Wildcats advanced to the Garden by shootouts. Sandwich beat Franklin, 1-0, and Wilmington beat Tewksbury, 4-3.
Sandwich is fast and balanced. The Knights lack superstars up front, but their defense is outstanding, led by junior Sean Gallagher. John O'Brien and Darryl Lawrie, a preseason transfer from the junior ranks, can also skate and move the puck. Freshman goalie Pat Harrington has handled the pressure well.
Wilmington is led by captain Ernie Mello, a running back on skates who can score. His centerman, Eric Siegel, is big and skilled, and Mike Enright is the spark plug of the top line. Wilmington has size on defense and Mike Cabral might be the hottest goalie in any tournament. Wilmington coach Steve Scanlon said his team is rife with nervous energy, and hopes it is ready after missing the tournament last year.
Scituate vs. Westfield, 12:30 p.m. - Scituate will defend its title against the team it beat for the crown. The Bombers, the top seed in a four-team WMass bracket, advanced by beating CMass champ Gardner, 3-2, in the semifinals. Dan Ross, who had just 8 regular-season points, put up two goals in a comeback win over the highly regarded Wildcats. Though it plays strong team defense in front of junior Alex Wiggs, Westfield will need more than just Ross to step up the scoring if it wishes to compete with Scituate.
The Sailors have size and skill up front and have outscored foes, 25-9, in the tournament. Their top line of Jamie Pratt, Pat Duggan, and Dan Galvin is on fire, and they get second-line production from winger Mac Luciani, who played at BC High before transferring back to Scituate for his junior year.