Photo: Junior goaltender Kevin Dacey has a .951 save percentage at the midpoint of the season.
By William Findlay
Belmont High School Boys’ Ice Hockey Head Coach Fred Allard had a few words for his team as it takes aim for a playoff spot at the midpoint of the season.
“We just need to stay focused on what we do well and keep pushing towards our [tournament] goal, and to not take anything for granted,” said Allard, as the Marauders seeks its first playoff berth since 2011.
Entering a de-facto bye-week (Jan. 16-20), the Marauders (6-2-2 overall, 4-2-0 in the league) will look to hone its skills on the practice ice before a tough stretch of games; facing perennial league leaders Reading High (5-3-0, 5-0-0 in the league) league twice in a week and playing away to a strong Burlington High team (3-4-1 overall)
“The Middlesex League is the toughest public school league in the state year in and year out so the strength of schedule is no surprise to us.” said the second-year coach on the difficulty of the upcoming games.
Despite a rigorous upcoming game schedule for the Marauders, efforts to meet their season goal of making the tournament have become significantly easier following a 4-1 win over Middlesex League opponent Winchester. Although a physical game throughout, the Marauders used their overwhelming speed and skill to outplay the Sachems last Saturday, Jan. 14 at Skip Viglirolo Rink.
“We knew they would be physical but also that [we] would be able to match the physicality and felt we had a slight advantage in team speed.” said Allard on the brand of hockey played by the Marauders.
The Marauders totaled 103 hits in the game, with the hard-nosed Junior defenseman Dennis Crowley leading the team with 12, followed closely by Sophomore blueliner James Nally, who tallied 11. Crowley also leads the team in total hits with a solid 70.
At times during the contest, the chippiness of this Middlesex League clash got out of hand, starting with a big scrum in front of the Winchester net at the end of the second period resulting in Winchester’s Chris Wilson receiving a game misconduct penalty.
“For the most part we did a good, job restraining ourselves in order to take advantage of power-plays,” Allard commented on his team’s overall grittiness in the game.
At the start of the third period, the Marauders found themselves a man up. Unfortunately, Connor Dacey and Kevin Quirk, members of the Marauders first power play unit, were themselves in the penalty box. Allard decided to add Austin Cole and Junior Asst. Captain Ben Brody to the power-play unit.
“For the boys to respond with a power-play goal [by Junior winger Will Domeniconi] so early in the third [period] was just awesome,” said Allard.
“We are pretty deep at forward and Alec Morin stepped in for Connor [and moved Domeniconi to center] and gave us some quality minutes!”
The Marauders power-play goal was one of two they scored in the final frame, and the second of a two-goal performance by Domeniconi. Domeniconi also chipped in with an assist, placing him second on the team point totals behind his linemate Connor Dacey, who also scored and had an assist versus Winchester. Domeniconi played a hard-working, two-way game, finishing with nine hits for the Marauders. Junior Stevie Rizzuto used his speed and size to score a goal and assist for one, putting him at seven points on the year.
Junior goaltender Kevin Dacey played a stellar game between the pipes, facing 40 shots with 39 saves, bringing his season save percentage up to a .951. A key moment for Dacey was a kick save in the second, pushing left to right to rob Winchester of what could have been a momentum-shifting goal.
“Kevin has always been a great goalie but the extra, time he spent in the gym during [the] off-season has allowed him to be even stronger. He is our backbone.” noted Allard.
The win against Winchester has been particularly momentous for players of this year’s graduating class.
“We awarded [the player of the game] to our seniors Cam Jefferson, Adam Cronin, Austin Cole, Kevin Quirk Mike Pergamo, Kevin Martin and Curtis Marusiak. This is their first win vs. Winchester in their careers, with a low-light of 10-0 loss at home to close out their freshman year. The senior leadership is a big reason for our early success.” commented Allard.
The seniors were big factors in the win over the Sachems, with blue-liners Kevin Quirk and Adam Cronin making their presence felt on offense. Quirk had two assists and eight hits, bringing his total to 59, while Cronin assisted on a goal and bruised the Winchester wingers for nine hits.
The Marauders 4-1 win over the Sachems moves them to just six points out of the playoffs, and Allard looks poised to take the Marauders there for the first time in his career.
The Marauders play next at “The Skip” on Monday, Jan. 23 against Reading, another powerful Middlesex League foe.