By Will Findlay
The Belmont High Boys’ Ice Hockey team was “that close” to making the post season last February.
The end-of-season margin for error for than first year Marauders’ Head Coach Fred Allard was slim, and ultimately the team failed to meet their goal of reaching the state tournament.
But Allard wasn’t worried. No one was. In fact, he was delighted with his team’s resilience and major improvements made during the season. Who wouldn’t be, with the Marauders finishing with seven wins, their most in five years.
When talking about the growth of his squad in his first season as head coach, Allard was pleased: “For my first year, I believe we took significant steps forward in establishing ourselves as a true competitor in [the] Middlesex League”.
The Marauders look to continue their upward swing starting this Friday at the Skip Viglirolo Rink as they take on traditional powerhouse Matignon.
I wanted our team to face top competition in our non-league games, so that is why [private Catholic schools like] Matignon and Catholic memorial [are on the] schedule this season.” said Allard, a Matignon graduate and member of two state title teams.
Chris Kelly, Allard’s former teammate at Matignon, is the current head of a historically strong Warriors squad. “so of course I want the ‘W’ in this one,” said Allard.
“That being said, this will be an uphill battle for us as they are talented.”
With the loss of starting right winger Stevie Rizzuto due to a shoulder/arm injury suffered on the first day of practice, Friday’s game may prove even more challenging for the Marauders.
“Stevie has been out since the first day,” said Allard “so he has not been on any of our preseason lines. We do look forward to his return as he is poised for a strong season.” Rizzuto finished with 12 points last season and looks to improve further this season.
Junior goaltender Kevin Dacey will likely get the nod from Allard opening night, Friday Dec. 8 as he and his assistant captain, brother Connor, look to start the 2016-17 campaign off right. Kevin posted an impressive .920 save percentage last year to go along with a 6-6 record and a 2.66 goals against average. Connor makes his presence felt on offense, chipping in 12 points last season for the Marauders, and he has the opportunity to lead his team this year as an assistant captain.
Senior co-captain Cam Jefferson looks to continue his success in Middlesex League play after having a phenomenal off-season playing in various tournaments statewide. He and Adam Cronin, the other co-captain, look to lead the Marauders to the state tournament for the first time in the Allard era of Belmont hockey. Other senior leaders include Kevin Martin, Michael Pergamo, Austin Cole, along with Curtis Marusiak and Kevin Quirk, two of Belmont’s most formidable physical players each tallied 30+ hits last season.
With the season opener looming, Allard expressed that his biggest goal for the upcoming season was to make the state tournament.
“It is something I want the boys to be a part of. Of all the sports. I don’t [think] anything comes close to the Massachusetts [High School] Boys state hockey tournament, so I want the team to have that experience.” he said.
“The entire program has worked exceptionally hard to prepare for [this] season. [The team] lost some great leaders but returned a lot of guys that have worked harder than ever in the off-season.”
Allard is confident in his team’s preparation for his second coaching campaign, and is hopeful that this dedication in the summer and fall will translate into a tournament berth in February. Allard’s squad has worked hard to write a new chapter in Belmont High’s rich hockey history, and the new chapter begins this Friday at “the Skip.”