Photo: Skip Viglirolo (right) with Belmont High Assistant Coach Bob Shea at the final league match at the namesake rink
In the final regular season matches ever to be held at the “Skip” – that would be the Skip Viglirolo Skating Rink on Concord Avenue – on Saturday, Feb. 18, the Belmont High Boys’ and Girls’ did the double with the boys’ winning in a workmanlike effort, 4-1 over Woburn High, while the girls’ recent lack of a needed finishing touch left their all-star goalie stuck with a 2-1 loss to the Tanners.
Even though the games honored the team’s seniors and the doubleheader ended more than half a century of high school games played in the rink – the girls’ team began playing there a little more than 30 years ago – supporters barely filled the stands, likely due to the start of February school vacation the day before. The day’s highlight was the presence of the rink’s namesake. Skip Viglirolo, his family and friends took in the boys’ game knowing it was likely the last time they would have a chance to see the old arena.
The Belmont Select Board recently declared it would not authorize the approximate $200,000 needed to repair critical infrastructure into the dilapidated structure. Town voters will have to opportunity to approve a $29 million debt exclusion to construct a new 40,313 sq-ft rink at the annual town election in April. Residents voted down a $35 million exclusion on an earlier rink design in November 2022.
The Boys’ were looking to right the ship Saturday – having gone 1-4-2 in the run-up to the game – with a victory as it prepared for two non-league post-season games in Springfield against juggernauts Pope Francis and Central Catholic [Update: Belmont would lose, 8-3, to Francis on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and defeat CC, 3-2 with senior co-captain Cam Fici earning the brace and senior co-captain Peter Grace putting in the third] to prep for the playoffs.
The game started with little urgency, as both teams were sparing to probe where they could take advantage of their opponent. However, by the second period, Belmont would strike three times, including a spectacular short-handed goal from – who else? – Fici, who deked and put the puck between the defender’s legs before rounding the goalie to put Belmont up, 3-1, at the end of two. Senior forward co-captain Shay Donahue would finish the scoring with a brace, and Fici picked up his third assist.
“It’s great to see what the seniors accomplished over four years including the shortened Covid season,” said Belmont Head Coach Tim Foley before the game.
In the finale, the Belmont girls came out and dominated the first two periods against a Tanner team playing for pride after missing the playoffs. But despite a flurry of chances, only first-year standout Mackenzie Clarke could send the puck into the netting with a second-period tally, while Belmont senior captain Bridget Gray was solid between the pipes throughout the opening two stanzas.
But the Tanners took advantage of Belmont’s propensity of finding the penalty box in the second and third to reverse the momentum and twice find the back of the net. The first came off a deflection when a Marauder defender attempted to knock down a shot that skipped by Gray, followed by a Woburn breakaway that Gray appeared to cover only to see it breakthrough. Belmont could not muster a challenge for the final 10 minutes to leave the ice empty-handed for the last time.
“I wouldn’t call that lack of scoring a problem this year,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Ken Murphy who noted that most of the team’s wins were in low scoring games as Gray and the back line led by junior Alex Townsend were the keystones of the defense.
“At the end of the season we didn’t have that one person who could score, and I don’t want to have that players, to be honest. I like three or four on the ice that work together to set up a good shot,” said Murphy, who has a good feeling about the upcoming playoffs.
“Coming from one of the strongest leagues out there, I feel good about anyone we go to see, that we’ll have a good chance because we are a solid team. We are three lines deep and a lot of teams can’t say that. We are solid with [Gray] so we are looking to make a mark in the playoffs,” said Murphy.
In the next to last MIAA power ranking of the season, while both teams are comfortable in the post-season, each just missed out of more favorable schedules. There are slim chances that due to other teams not releasing updated scores or late recalculations the rankings could change by the time the playoff pairings are announced this weekend.
Currently, 9th in Division 1, the boys (13-6-3) are one spot out of securing a pair of home games at the “Skip” which will close its doors one last time in early March. With the current standings, Belmont will host 24th-ranked Chelmsford (10-6-3) next week.
After missing the postseason last year with a 6-10-2 mark in 47th place, the girls were on the right side of the 16th seed, guaranteeing a home fixture in the first round. But a late-season falloff in scoring saw the Marauders limp in at 0-4-2 down the home stretch to finish the season at 8-8-3 in 18th in the Division 2 power rankings.
Last week, Belmont appeared that they would be driving and taking a ferry 100 miles and three hours (one way!) to Oak Bluffs to take on Martha’s Vineyard Regional. And as if it by destiny, as Belmont dropped a spot in the past week, the Vineyarders (12-6-2) rose one place to 15th, clinching a home game against the Marauders next week to be played at the YMCA Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena in Oak Bluffs.