Photo: Belmont Matty Rowen scored Belmont’s first goal vs Woburn
Despite an undefeated Middlesex League season secured with a come-from-behind 2-2 tie against host Woburn, it currently appears Belmont High Boys’ Ice Hockey will be looking forward to sharing yet another title.
Unlike the 2019-2020 Div. 1, state crown shared with Walpole when all MIAA finals were abruptly canceled at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down that March, the likely sharing of the Middlesex League Liberty title with Arlington is due to what happened on the ice as Belmont finished the final stretch of the league season with a win and two ties seeing a pair of points go wanting.
While Belmont does hold the advantage in head-to-head matches against the SpyPonders (a 2-2 tie at home and a 6-2 whitewashing in Arlington earlier in the week), Arlington is expected to win its final League contests against Winchester and Woburn to finish equal 24 points with the Marauders. It will be Belmont’s first title – albeit with the SpyPonders – since 2003-4 and its third crown in program history.
“We showed up obviously a little bit too late to the game today. We didn’t really didn’t get into it until the third period,” said first-year Head Coach Tim Foley, who praised the Tanners for working “from the opening face-off to the last whistle.”
On paper, it looked like a match the Marauders (13-1-2) could secure the title outright against Woburn sitting at the tail end of the division at 8-4-3 coming into the game. But the Tanners have played well this year, losing three of its games by a goal and rated 17th in the Division 1 power rankings (Belmont is ranked 7th.)
“But like all games in the Middlesex Liberty, it was going to be hard-fought and we didn’t expect anything less,” said As each team in the division are in the top 22 ranked squads in the MIAA power rankings.
After controlling the first four minutes and change, Belmont found itself trailing 1-0 as junior Jackson Powers snapped the puck just to the side of Belmont goalie Ryan Griffith coming against the run of play. Afterward, the Marauders found space along the boards but could not connect with anyone near the crease, The second period began brightly with junior phenom Cam Fici clanging a blast off the crossbar after five minutes and nearly connected a minute later on a power wrap around that brought oohs and aahs from the crowd.
It appeared it was just a matter of time before the Marauders would knot up the contest when during a rush-up ice Powers got his brace as he buried a sitter past with 3:07 left in the period. The last time Belmont has trailed by two this season was in its only loss to Wellesley.
“Today there was a similar vibe in the locker room as we had against Wellesley, we just didn’t have a game mentality,” said Foley. “Maybe they don’t like morning games.”
What Belmont needed was a lifeline which it received early in the third with a power play. With Fici and senior first line Shay Donahue causing chaos in the zone, linemate co-captain Matty Rowen settled on the doorstep of the goal where he reached out to grab a pass and slide the puck off the left post to cut the deficit to one with 11:58 left.
As Woburn turned most of its focus on defending its advantage, Belmont pressed in the Tanners zone to squeeze the defenders and cut off passing lanes. And it would be a breakout that gave Belmont its breakthrough as Fici proved, once again, the junior co-captain is an absolute sniper with the puck on his stick. Coming into the offensive zone cradling the puck with a defender screening him, Fici launched – with one skate on the ice the other two feet off the surface – off of a screamer from beyond the right circle that snuck between Ryder’s stick and right pad and into the net with 6:13 remaining. The goal was Fici’s 32nd of the season.
“Fici being Fici,” as Foley has stated in the past.
The remainder of the third and during the five minutes, four-on-four overtime saw each team played with an abundance of caution, so much so that in OT Woburn sat on the puck behind its goal for 30 seconds with no initiative to break out until Belmont sent a forechecker to entice the action.
With the game settled, Foley said a goal at the beginning of the season was to win the division outright. “But there is no shame in sharing this [with Arlington]. The seniors have a lot to be proud of. I think we are in a good place going into the tournament.”
Belmont will finish the season with the main event matchup as the Marauders host perennial powerhouse Catholic Memorial High from West Roxbury for a battle between top ten programs in the state. The game takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, if the ballywire and gum holding the Skip together doesn’t come apart.