Hockey: Gray’s Masterpiece Earns Belmont Girls’ Important Point Vs Winchester; Boys’ Rely On First Line, Again, To Eek Out A Tie

Photo: Bridget Gray is Belmont’s GOAT in the nets.

There was no right for the Belmont High School Girls’ Ice Hockey squad to walk away with one point against ten-win Winchester. For most of the game, the action was one-way-only traffic heading into the Belmont zone as the Marauders were chasing the puck for three periods.

But at the end of overtime, Belmont players swarmed their junior co-captain goalie Bridget Gray who gave the Marauders the lifeline to escape the Skip with a valuable 2-2 tie. If Gray has had a more impactful regular season game in her three varsity seasons please remind us as her performance against Div. 2 top-five Winchester was a masterpiece.

From the first 10 seconds where she stoned a clear breakaway to the final seconds of the 50 minutes she was on the ice, Gray stopped 54 of 56 shots, a monumental shot rate of 19 per period. But it’s unusual for Gray – who has been a starter since the 2019-20 season – to see a ton of pucks come her way as she surpassed 1,500 saves in her career.

The attempts at goal were a collection of challenging testers, many coming from open looks as opponents drove to the net forcing Gray to make instinctual reaction saves including after only six minutes when she stopped her second breakaway of the period and then smother the shot attempt off the rebound.

It was remarkable that Belmont (6-5-2) was only down 1-0 after 15 minutes as Winchester scored after crashing the net and ping-ponging the puck in. The second period didn’t look any more promising for Belmont, especially after a tripping call put a Marauder in the box for a second time in the period. But against the run of play, Belmont scored short handed when junior Lily Duffy sped into the Winchester zone and unleashed a wrister that hugged the ice beating the goalie stick side at 9:40 remaining.

Paraphrasing the line from Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” scoring on Winchester only made them mad and they came out looking to retake the lead coming close with a shot that sat on the goal-line, another off the crossbar from a blocker save and Gray stealing a goal heading into the open net with her glove and pads. But Gray could not singlehandedly hold back the onslaught and gave up the second just past halfway in the period.

But once again, Belmont scored out of no where when sophomore forward Gretchen Hanley was at the right place at the right time to pickup the puck from a mangled attempt of a save to tie it up at two. After so much work just to tie the score, Gray and Belmont would bend but not break to secure the tie. (Belmont would secure a 1-1 tie vs Reading

While Belmont kept its record above .500, the importance of the Gray-inspired draw is realized when looking at the now all-important power rankings table as the Marauders jumped five places in Division 2 from 34th to 29th, just above the 32nd place cutoff to remain eligible for the state tournament. But the tie against a .500 Reading has Belmont right at the 32nd cutoff.

And Belmont will need to rely on Gray to come up big in the final four games of the year as the team faces a true running of gauntlet of stellar opponents in the next two weeks – Arlington (ranked 2nd in Div. 1), Woburn (12th in D2), Haverhill (9th) and undefeated Winthrop (14th). Conceivably the Marauders could loss each game and stay inside the 32nd placement due to the high ranking of the opponents which can actually be beneficial when calculating the rankings. But Belmont would need to keep each game close, something Gray will have a big say.

Tired Ties For The Boys

Midway through overtime in its game against Middlesex League rivals Reading, Belmont (15-1-2) replaced two of its top offense line and number one defensive pair from the ice. Those who saw the players coming off wouldn’t be so wrong to believe they were watching a recreation of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow: there couldn’t be a more exhausted looking group dragging themselves back to the bench. Less than a minute later, the The reason for the image was clear: the five players were on the ice for much of the game which ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

And if you know who they are, you’d know why they should be out there for long stretches of time. The first line of senior Matty Rowen and juniors Shay Donahue and Cam Fici is the most productive and active group in the Middlesex League if not the state. They pop on the ice and suddenly it is theirs: they can dominate between the blue lines and then combine with deft passing and a deadly eye – especially from Fici who is nearing 30 goals this season – for the back of the net.

The stats tell it all: Of Belmont’s 16 goals in the past 7 games, 15 have been planted by the first line. The last non-Rowen, Donahue, Fici goal came from sophomore Matt Pomer against Woburn nearly a month ago.

Over on the defensive side, one of the best pairs in these parts is juniors Joe Gaziano and Peter Grace who have cultivated a partnership that provides a solid back line in front of all-star senior goalie Ryan Griffin.

And it’s not that Belmont is bereft of talented players: sophomore defender Adrien Gurung is a talented two-way worker (he scored Belmont’s first goal against top ranked Arlington in its 2-2 tie in January) while seniors Joe Michaud, Joe Dolan and Nathan Kefeyan have the toughness to play in the Middlesex League and youngsters such as the Pomer brothers (Matt and Mike) and junior Andrew Ferreira are getting their chance on the ice.

Yet when it comes to holding onto a slim lead, to be out there on the power play and short handed or if there is a need for a score, it’s likely the starting five will be called on. Just how much will Belmont’s bench use this set of assets as they come across giants such as Arlington away (Wednesday) and at home against Catholic Memorial (Friday) during the week will indicate their future use during the MIAA Div. 1 tournament where Belmont and Walpole are defending co-champions.

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